DAYTON — It’s a conversation no family wants to have – talking to a loved one about memory loss or cognitive decline.
The signs are there. Your loved one gets confused about time, dates and places. They get lost driving home. Simple tasks or family names escape them.
A new survey by the Alzheimer’s Association reveals that nearly 9 in 10 Americans experiencing memory loss, thinking problems or other symptoms of cognitive decline would want others to tell them and share their concerns. However, nearly 75 percent — or three out of four Americans — say that talking to a close family member about memory loss, thinking problems, or other signs of cognitive problems would be challenging for them.
June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month and the Miami Valley Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association is urging families to have the conversation. Delaying the conversation, could delay and even prevent early diagnosis and optimal management of disease-related challenges.
“Starting a conversation with a loved one about memory loss or other signs and symptoms of dementia can be very challenging because of the strong emotions that families may experience, including grief, denial, fear, and even anger,” said Rebecca Hall, director of care and support for the Miami Valley Alzheimer’s Association. “But we urge families not to delay the conversation because early detection is so important. Early detection enables a person to plan for the future, access treatment for symptoms, and participate in clinical trials.”
The Rev. Scott Griswold said his wife started noticing signs that something was different about him. At the same time, as pastor of The United Church in South Vienna, he noticed that speaking was becoming more difficult for him. He and his wife talked and Griswold decided to go see his doctor. When he did, according to Griswold, “the doctor said he noticed some things too.”
So, after some tests, they determined the diagnosis was dementia Alzheimer’s.
The Alzheimer’s Association suggests three simple steps to help families have the conversation with a loved one they are concerned about. They are assess changes; begin a conversation; and lastly contact the Alzheimer’s Association for help.
“Care and support staff at the Alzheimer’s Association can help families work through the challenge of starting a conversation about possible signs and symptoms of dementia and beyond,” Hall said. “Staff at our local chapter can meet with families to provide tips for approaching the conversation, answer questions about signs and symptoms, and provide resources for what may come next.”
The public can always call the Association’s 24/7 Helpline, at 800-272-3900. People can also go to the association’s website at alz.org/dayton for a plethora of information and resources.
“It’s all about recognizing behavioral changes,” Griswold said. “The only way you are ever going to know anything is you have got to see your doctor.”
As someone with the disease, “You can make the best you can for the quality life you choose to have.”