How to Talk to a Parent About Memory Loss & Address Concerns

If you notice cognitive changes in a parent, it can be challenging to know how to address this topic with them.

As your parents age, they may start forgetting things, repeating themselves, or having difficulty with simple tasks. Your parents might not even realize that they’re doing these things, and there’s a chance they will deny them if you gently bring these changes to their attention.

However, it’s important to have an honest conversation with your parent about your concerns as early as possible. Because early detection and diagnosis are essential to slowing the progression of memory impairment and cognitive decline, having this conversation sooner rather than later is crucial to developing a care plan that can help slow the progression of their condition and help them maintain their quality of life.

Moreover, delaying this conversation can lead to increased stress, anxiety, and frustration for both you and your parent. Remember, consulting a doctor is truly the only way to find out what could be causing these changes in your parent, so encouraging them to seek a physician’s advice during your conversation can be a big help.

Our team at Uplands Village wants to help you support your mom or dad. We understand that each memory loss journey is personal and comes with unique challenges that other individuals might not face. That’s why our memory care community in Pleasant Hill, Tennessee, offers innovative support and holistic care that boosts all aspects of wellness. 

If you’re curious how to start this difficult conversation with Mom or Dad, look no further. We’re sharing some tips and steps to take on how to talk to a parent about memory loss, ensuring your family can confidently find the answers that you need in order to create a care plan for the journey ahead. 

Assess the Circumstances

Step #1: Take Note of Specific Changes You Are Noticing

Before you approach your parent with memory loss concerns, you will want to take note of the specific changes you notice in their behavior so you can provide examples of what you have observed. Carefully note down the exact changes that you notice in their behavior and cognitive abilities, like forgetting names, showing strange behaviors during conversations, or having difficulty managing daily routines or activities. It’s important to be specific about these changes so your parent can better understand what you’re talking about.

For instance, you might have noticed that your parent has forgotten to take their medication regularly or missed an important appointment. These are both specific examples you can use to help your parent reflect on their lifestyle and health.

In addition, it’s also important to consider how these changes could impact your parent’s safety. For instance, if your parent is forgetting to take their medication, this could have serious consequences for their health. By taking note of these changes and approaching your parent with specific examples, you can help them understand the importance of seeking medical attention and getting the care they need.

Ask yourself the following questions before sitting down with your parent for a conversation:

  • What are they doing or not doing that is causing concern? 
  • Can you think of any specific examples of when you noticed memory loss or changes in their thinking or cognitive abilities?
  • How could these changes impact their safety?

Step #2: Consider External Factors

Certain health conditions, medication side effects, and even stressful life events can cause unusual changes to cognitive health. For example, respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, and dehydration can all cause dementia-like symptoms. These conditions can lead to confusion, disorientation, and trouble with memory, making it difficult for older adults to perform their daily activities. 

Make sure to check their medications for possible side effects and drug interactions as well, since many commonly prescribed drugs can interfere with memory and cause lapses in cognitive function. 

Additionally, keep in mind that high amounts of stress could be causing changes in their behavior. When we experience stress, the cortisol hormone is released into the bloodstream and affects the immune system. High amounts of cortisol in a person’s system for a prolonged period of time have been linked to memory problems and the development of dementia. Are any major events happening in your parent’s life, such as a death in the family or a significant move? 

By taking any of these external factors into account first, you can rule out the possibility that something else is causing your family member’s memory loss and be more prepared when you have the conversation with them. Even if you do not suspect dementia, it is important to be aware of these external factors and have a conversation with a healthcare professional if you notice any signs of memory loss or cognitive decline in your loved one.

Step #3: Educate Yourself About the Signs and Symptoms of Dementia

“Dementia” is not one disease but an umbrella term used to describe several conditions that affect memory, cognitive abilities, behavior, and personality changes. As a matter of fact, there are many different types of dementia, including: 

Since there are several different types of dementia, each variation affects the brain and every individual differently. With this being said, there are common signs and symptoms of dementia that you can look for in your parent or family member.

Some of these include:

  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  • Challenges planning or solving problems
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks
  • Confusion with time or place
  • Trouble understanding visual and spatial relationships
  • Difficulty with speaking or writing
  • Changes in mood or personality

By understanding the common symptoms, you will know what to look for and better gauge if the changes you are noticing are cause for concern. If you notice these symptoms, it may be time to talk to your parent’s doctor.

Have the Conversation

Step #4: Plan What You Will Say

Going into the conversation with a plan will help it go more smoothly. Approach the topic gently and reassure Mom or Dad that you are coming from a place of concern rather than judgment. 

Often, experiencing these cognitive changes can cause insecurities and uncertainties regarding the future of older adults. By assuring your parent that you want to make sure they find the best treatment plan possible, you can help them feel supported and minimize any difficult feelings. No matter what, be sure that you avoid talking down to your parent and stay away from any overly negative language. 

Again, address specific examples of changes you have been noticing and ask if they have been feeling or noticing any changes as well.

Step #6: Offer to Accompany Them to the Doctor

The unknown can sometimes be scarier than the actual diagnosis. If Mom or Dad is hesitant about going to the doctor, support them by offering to go with them. It can allow them to feel supported and loved on this new journey and provide peace of mind that they’ll have a second set of eyes and ears to take notes and keep track of any important information shared by their doctor.

Encourage them by letting them know that several things could be causing these changes, but the only way to find out what is happening and get peace of mind is by consulting a doctor and receiving a proper diagnosis. 

Step #7: Find Memory Care

Memory care communities are designed to help manage symptoms associated with dementia and enhance the quality of life of individuals living with memory impairments within a safe environment.

Our innovative memory care program in Pleasant Hill, Tennessee, ensures that residents receive the comfort and support they need with around-the-clock personal care while experiencing purposeful living that contributes to their physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness.

At Uplands Village, we understand that memory loss has challenges, and your parent’s comfort and emotional well-being are our first priority. That is why we help residents experience joy through a holistic approach that cares for them comprehensively.

If you want to learn more about compassionate memory care options in Pleasant Hill, Tennessee, we invite you to visit our website or contact our Uplands Village team.

Updated: February 2024