Navigating the aging process isn’t easy for anyone. Despite millennia of people getting older, it’s brand new to each of us when we get there. As family members, sometimes it’s easy to forget that this is just as foreign to the loved one as it is to us—especially if there’s a memory-related diagnosis involved.
Assisted living communities such as Autumn View Gardens in Ellisville offer memory care levels of service for a reason. Our community offers an option for a vibrant and full life for seniors with all types of conditions, including cognitive decline. Still, there are some things your family member may want you to know or keep in mind.
Everyone loves their family members and wants the best for them. But when we spend time double checking their medications, reminding them about appointments and telling them they need to be more on top of these things, we’re not always helping. That's especially true if your loved one is already getting this help from someone else. They may have chosen an assisted living community because there are staff members employed to handle these things.
Part of the reason for choosing an assisted living community in the first place is to have help with the necessities. The help provided by staff at Autumn View Gardens allows for less burden on the individual and their family.
Certainly, you should pay attention, ask questions and work alongside a loved one's care team as appropriate. But remember that your first job is to be their loved one.
Assisted living communities are genuine communities full of people with different life experiences and interests. Sometimes, these can serve to inspire people to chase after things they’ve always wanted to do but never could. Now, thanks to the freedom provided by an assisted living community, there’s no reason not to.
But sometimes family members are concerned that their loved one is trying to fill their time or pretend they’re younger than they are. The reality couldn’t be farther from that. What happens is that people realize that they’re now able to do more and decide to do the things they’ve been putting off. It isn’t that they want to feel young or that they’re bored—they just have more opportunity to go out and enjoy life.
They still have things they want to accomplish, things they want to try and things they want to check out because they're curious. Moving into an assisted living community is just a different part of life, not the end of it—and that's true both for those with memory issues and for those who aren't dealing with such issues.
Many times after a person receives a diagnosis for an ongoing issue, like that of a memory-related condition, they struggle to find a sense of normalcy. They want to continue to live their life as they have been. That includes spending time with their family and being treated as they have been.
It’s obvious to them when you’re treating them differently, just as it would be to you if the roles were reversed. People with a memory diagnosis don’t need to be treated in some special new way, they just need to incorporate dealing with that issue into their life. They’re still the same person, with the same feelings and same concerns, just with a new one added in. They don’t want to be treated with kid gloves; they just want to continue to be a part of your life and live a normal life as long as possible.
If there’s a need for special treatment or something new adopted into their life, their doctor will let them, and you, know. Otherwise, just treat them like the same person they’ve always been. Because they are.
It is not uncommon for people to try and withdraw from those they love after they receive their diagnosis. They want to spare the people they care about the pain or inconvenience of dealing with the issue. In the early stages especially, it can be easier to avoid contact than to deal with the conversations that might need to take place.
As time goes on, this can lead to individuals choosing to handle things by themselves, and sometimes that can make things worse. Falls while trying to do chores, minor fender benders while driving, forgetting to take medications—these things can happen because the person is overwhelmed with everything they have to deal with. Often, they’re overwhelmed because they don’t want to bother loved ones or change their relationships with family and friends.
This is why an assisted living community can be a huge blessing. Residents don’t have to take things on themselves, and they don’t have to feel like they're burdening family or irrevocably changing relationships. Keep in mind, though, that there are still plenty of things you can do to help a loved one who is dealing with a memory condition. Just make sure you are very open about it being something that you’d enjoy doing. Let them know it’s an excuse for you to be around them or that it will help you feel useful, that way they can be reassured that they’re not inconveniencing you. It’s the last thing they want.