Mental health is very important in all stages of living. I know some young people who struggle and some old people who struggle. Many of these struggles are to do with memories and fear.
There is a connection between memory, mental health, and fear.
Memory loss impacts our ability to understand since so much of our understanding is based on our history and experiences. When memory loss occurs, the confidence that comes from an inner knowledge or a sense of familiarity is replaced by a void of uncertainty. A part of us feels like we should know who so-and-so is or what is happening around us, but we don’t. And that can be unsettling.
Memory loss can happen at any age although it seems to be more prevalent among the older population. There are many types of treatments for memory loss from prescriptions to supplements to memory games and physical activity. I am not an expert on any of these treatments but I would suggest that just as we are all wonderfully and uniquely made by God, the treatment must be tailored to the specific person. There is no one way fits all path here.
And then there are those who love memory impaired people. This can be a frustrating experience. Hearing the same story over and over again and constantly repeating ourselves are not fun ways to spend an afternoon. Neither is arguing about misplaced items, missed doses, or perceptions of reality. Yet as frustration builds, the temptation is to coerce, correct, and argue with our loved ones. None of these prove effective or helpful. They will damage the relationship and can belittle both us and the memory impaired loved one.
Here are five ways to deal with the challenges of loving a memory impaired person:
- Be patient. It may take some time for them to remember names or places. It is helpful to assist them with recall and not just tell them the answer.
- Routine is very important. Most of us don’t like a lot of change in our day. Even when we are aware of upcoming events, change can still be stressful. Imagine if you already feel lost; that could be quite frightening.
- Write down important phone numbers and other crucial information. Keep this list short and sweet. Refer to this list whenever possible, so they can see it. Allow them to ask questions about what or who is on that list.
- Manage expectations. Our loved ones are not trying to be stupid or difficult. If your dad used to fix everything under the sun and now can’t remember how to tie his shoes, believe me, it is not something he does on purpose. Ensure you provide more time and don’t expect our loved ones to live up to our expectations prior to the memory impairment.
- Communicate slowly and clearly. Don’t raise your voice. If you are angry or impatient it will increase both stress levels and memory issues. Often when memory impairment happens, processing information is anxiety ridden. Even if they nod as if they get it, ask politely if they understand and then ask them to repeat it back to you.
There are no guarantees that anything you do will work. The goal is not for you to cure their memory problems. The goal is helping our loved ones feel loved and secure. They already feel like they are losing their minds and the fear of losing us as well can be overwhelming.
As with any mental health issue, we need to be our loved one’s number one cheerleader, supporter, and advocate. A short and good article on helping someone with memory loss can be found at:
- Helping someone with memory loss: Rochester
The last bit of advice is to realize you are not alone. Satan loves to keep us isolated and alone. Dividing us into thinking we have nobody that will understand or support us is a very effective tactic of our enemy. Find some one whom you trust. Join a support group. Allow yourself to feel loved.
And do not let Satan separate your loved one from feeling your love or the love of God.
Andy Becker is a retired counselor and author of The Travelers, a fictionalized account of spiritual warfare (available on Amazon) as is, Stupid Thyroid, a book he co-wrote with his wife, Stella. He and his wife, Stella, lead Lighthouse Ministries which offers love, hope, and encouragement to one of Canada’s poorest and roughest neighborhoods, North Central Regina. His book, The Travelers, is available at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca