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How to Connect with Loved Ones Suffering Memory Loss

By Deniese Williams

The Cabana at Jensen Dunes

Forgetfulness and lapses in memory are part of the aging process. But, in the case of dementia-related disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, memory loss becomes chronic and debilitating – and it affects quality of life – not only for the individual, but also for family members and friends. I’m often asked about the best ways to connect with a loved one whose memory is failing. At The Cabana at Jensen Dunes, we always begin with patience and compassion – but there are other recommendations that can help make communication more fulfilling and enjoyable:

  • Stay with the familiar. Try to arrange activities that are meaningful and have been part of a daily routine: light gardening, for example, or a short walk along a frequently used route. Don’t suggest a day trip to a busy, unfamiliar place.
  • Don’t rush. Talk slowly, clearly and in simple terms. Let your loved one try to finish their thought, and gently complete it only if they seem lost or confused.
  • Determine the best time of day to visit. Roughly one in five people with Alzheimer’s can become agitated or confused late in the day. This is known as Sundowning Syndrome. The exact cause is not known, but fading light and shadows could be triggers. Keeping the room well lit, placing the thermostat at a comfortable level and planning quiet activities like cards or listening to soothing music can help.
  • Playing familiar music. A favorite song can trigger pleasant memories and lead to pleasant reminiscing. Music is deeply embedded in our psyches and often associated with noteworthy events.
  • Play games from the past. Try checkers or a simple card game. Even Monopoly could work; just know that you might need to simplify the rules. The goal is to generate engagement in a non-stressful way.
  • Promote good eating and drinking habits. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables and staying hydrated are important to everyone’s physical and mental health, no matter our stage of life.

When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or a related memory loss disorder, it can become overwhelming for the caregivers. At The Cabana at Jensen Dunes, we are here to help – with specialized memory support programs and services, as well as trained and compassionate professionals, including a licensed nurse on staff 24/7. If you have questions, please call us today at 722-322-1000.

Deniese Williams, Executive Director of The Cabana at Jensen Dunes, is a registered nurse with a Master of Science in Nursing and more than 20 years of experience in the long-term care industry.