You know, when you’ve grown up watching your parents take charge in every situation, staying physically active throughout their lives, and carry on their responsibilities proficiently, watching them grow old can be quite disturbing.
What can make it even worse and scary is if your parents also end up becoming more forgetful with time.
“Mild changes in memory and slowness of thinking can be a normal part of aging. For example, misplacing items, forgetting someone’s name and facing a difficulty in remembering new information may come naturally with old age. These usually are not causes of concern,” says Pushpanjali Vishwakarma, clinical psychologist, Nayati Medicity, Mathura.
However, Dr. Preeti Singh who is a senior consultant at the clinical psychology and psychotherapy department, Paras Hospital in Gurugram is quick to add that, “Forgetfulness in an aging adult beyond the normal rate may be a symptom of a disease like Alzheimer’s or vascular dementia. It is important to determine the underlying cause of your forgetfulness and begin treatment as soon as possible.”
How do you know that the situation is getting serious?
According to Vishwakarma, if you notice these symptoms, it could indicate that your parents are becoming forgetful:
–Quickly forgetting recent or newly-learned things
-Inability to remember basic facts like the day of the week, when the last meal was eaten, etc.
-Facing trouble expressing thoughts and giving answers
-Disorientation and losing memory of otherwise-familiar places
-Difficulty carrying out household activities and responsibilities
-Frequent mistakes with easy tasks like going to a store, cooking or cleaning
-Trouble with personal care (forgetting to wash, shave, comb hair, or dress in the right type of clothes)
Additionally, Singh also mentions the following symptoms as an addition to this list:
-Changes in personality or behaviour
-Difficulty with skills like making calculations
-Abrupt changes in mood, such as anger or irritability, without a cause
-Shortness of breath
When should you be alarmed?
“If the above-mentioned symptoms and signs are progressively getting worse, then this can be regarded as a serious neurodegenerative condition like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia,” Vishwakarma warns.
And how can you deal with this situation?
If you’re able to relate to these symptoms of forgetfulness mentioned above, you’re most likely to panic and lose your ability to determine what to do next. After all, watching your parents getting older and weaker is never easy. But just take a deep breath and try following these steps recommended by our experts:
1. Try stimulating their memory:
According to Vishwakarma, engaging with your parents in meaningful activities that they enjoyed in the past can help stimulate their memory.
“Listen to their favourite music, review memories about early-life experiences, take them to visit old friends or relatives, ask your parents to narrate incidents from the past to the younger members of the family, look at old and new photographs while asking them to describe the people in the pictures. Such activities can help them refresh their memories while maintaining a connection with the past,” she says.
2. Encourage your parents to stay active
Vishwakarma also suggests encouraging your parents to stay physically active through the day. Low-intensity physical activities such as mild stretching, chair yoga, or other exercises, playing an outdoor game of catching and throwing a ball, or simply doing household chores together, some physical activity is important for your aging parents as it can boost memory and cognitive powers.
3. Engage in religious, spiritual, and cultural activities with them
Attend a religious service, read or sing prayers together, listen to or sing religious or cultural music as doing so can strengthen your bond while inclining them towards spirituality, or so, says Vishwakarma.
4. Communicate with your parents
You must point out their forgetfulness politely so that they become aware of it.
“Your concern might motivate them to see a doctor or make other changes. Consider including other people who care about your parents in the conversation, such as close friends or any other family members,” Singh recommends.
5. Schedule a doctor’s visit
If your parents have show symptoms of forgetfulness or any other mental health issue, it is an indication that they need a doctor’s guidance. Hence, talk to them about it and take them to a doctor if need be so that their condition can be treated on time and further damage to their health can be prevented.
But, in case your parents are reluctant to comply, then get in touch with a doctor yourself so as to seek his guidance on how to convince them to accept help without worsening their condition.
6. Think about home-care services
If you don’t stay with your parents or are a working professional, then Singh suggests considering a home health-care aid that could help with the daily activities of your parents, such as bathing, meal preparation, and administering their medicines on time.
7. Show some love
“Remind your parents that you care about them and that you want to help promote their health and well-being- today and in the years to come,” says Singh.
Not to mention, avoid letting them stay alone or getting them into situations that confuse them even more. Spend more time with them and make them feel wanted and cared for.
But don’t forget to take care of yourself while you’re at it
Taking care of your ageing parents can be all-consuming. However, you’ve got to take care of yourself as well if you really want to take care of them better. Here’s what you need to do:
1. Take some time off: “Caregivers, who are under too much stress tend to falter, while those with a positive attitude can actually help improve the condition of the person they’re looking after. Which is why every caregiver needs time away from his/her caregiving responsibilities. This is called ‘respite time’ and is important for you to feel rejuvenated and get back to your responsibilities feeling better,” Vishwakarma explains.
2. Make it a point to exercise: Nothing can help release your frustration and boost your mood better than a good workout. A calming walk in the park, a high-intensity run, or simply a dance workout to lift your spirits up—whatever it is that get your endorphins (happiness hormones) going can help you deal with your situation much better according to Vishwakarma.
3. Try to look at the positive side of the situation: Surely, looking at the brighter side seems difficult while you’re going through the trauma of watching your parents becoming forgetful, however, you can always try.
“Take advantage of this time to rekindle your bond with old friends and relatives by visiting them along with your parents. Go out to eat, watch a movie, enjoy a concert, attend a sporting event, have spa treatments, or engage in relaxing and pleasing activities,” Vishwakarma says.
4. Keep your anger in check: The sudden load of responsibilities can frustrate you. However, make sure to never end up yelling at your parents or your house help/friends/family members who are trying to help you get through the situation.
The forgetfulness your parents are experiencing is a natural progression that comes with age but you definitely need to stay vigilant and know when to seek medical help.