GUEST COLUMNIST NOTE: Tony Dearing, the Director of News Operations for NJ Advance Media, contacted me after last year's "Talk Brain Health" webinar. Tony writes a column on brain health, dementia prevention and successful aging. What follows is an abbreviated version of a related article by Tony that grew out of our conversation. Thank you, Tony, for your informative article!
It can be one of the most difficult conversations you'll ever have.
And one of the most important.
When a loved one begins to struggle with memory loss, you can't help but worry. Soon, others notice, too. Everyone can see mom is struggling, but no one wants to talk about it. Especially to her.
The Alzheimer's Foundation of America knows how tough it can be for families to talk about memory loss. "It's a sensitive issue," Amanda Secor, AFA director of communications, said in a recent webinar. "You don't want to offend someone. If they're starting to have memory issues, they might be defensive about being approached about it."
But there are gentle, non-threatening ways to broach the subject, and the AFA wants to show you how. So it teamed with the National Alliance for Caregiving
to create a free tool kit to help families start the conversation with a loved one, so he or she can get the treatment they need for their memory loss -- and perhaps even reverse it.
Why early detection of dementia is crucial. People ask, what's the point of getting a diagnosis if there's no cure? But experts say early diagnosis is crucial in helping to slow the cognitive decline, improve quality of life for the patient, and give help to a family overwhelmed by the demands of caring for someone with dementia.
The "Let's Talk Brain Health!" tool kit [in English & Spanish] takes you step-by-step through the process of involving family members, comparing notes, getting yourself prepared and then choosing the right time and setting to sit down with a parent or spouse and open a discussion.
Christine Damon, founder of the Illinois-based CareSmart program, says that process begins by documenting the behavior changes you've noticed.
"The first thing has to do with observations, taking some notes," says Damon, who helped present the tool kit at a series of national webinars last fall. "One thing you really want to pay attention to is, has there been change? Something that people used to be very familiar with and do easily? Are you seeing new behavior?"
Once you have your own notes, the tool kit suggests the following steps:
Click here to read Tony's article in it's entirety or here to download as a PDF file.