Listen, work together if your loved one has memory loss

By From page B10 | November 17, 2012

bass column sig

It has been important to try to put myself in my wife’s position.

I’ve learned if a person is willing to listen, there are plenty of clues to lead you to where the person is. Comments such as “I’m bored,” “I’m lost” or “please help me” are food for thought. So are questions such as “Where does this go?”

If you look at the simple statement, “I’m bored,” it is easy to understand why she is bored. No past, no future . . . an almost completely blank present.

It isn’t possible to fill the void all the time. It is possible to make life less boring much of the time.

We do things together. Be a partner and expect involvement in activities, such as cooking meals, setting the table, washing dishes and putting them away. Even mundane things like collecting the trash.

Folks with memory problems are capable of learning again and establishing new habits. Especially those that involve repeated physical activity.

It is possible to draw on the memory of physical tasks performed in the past. For example, doing the wash. In spite of protests, such as “this isn’t my machine” or “I’ll wash these when I get home,” when I ask, “Can you help me do this?” the memory of how to physically manage the cycles of the washing machines kick in and she does it, perfectly.

Or being my eyes in finding errors in the materials I write. I am terrible about spelling and keyboard mistakes. She has “eagle” eyes and can spot mistakes from across the room. A real help to me.

So I don’t assume that things aren’t possible because there have been too many times when I have asked for help and I have gotten far more than I expected.

The partnership approach has been far more satisfying for both of us. The positive results from working together pretty much strike down the common misconception many folks have that memory loss is a single-faceted condition.

As a friend remarked, each situation is different because each person is unique. Different memories, different perception of one’s self and different needs.

I think it is important to remember that if you are patient and willing to listen, they will tell you what they are feeling and that will suggest what they need.

I am not saying everything is understandable. It’s not. Don’t expect it to be because you will be disappointed.

Many fantasies come from out nowhere and have no relationship to reality or life experience as you know it. But keeping the person involved in real life can head off too much time spent in fantasy.

Doing things, being useful and filling the void is most productive. Working as partners constantly rebuilds your relationship.

Murray Bass can be reached at 427-0744 or [email protected]

Murray Bass


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