10 Steps to Approach Memory Concerns in Others - NYCM Insurance Blog

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Oct 21, 2022

10 Steps to Approach Memory Concerns in Others

More than 6 million Americans today are living with Alzheimer’s, including 410,000 here in New York State. But unfortunately, only half of those individuals ever receive a diagnosis, which can delay needed care and put individuals at risk as they continue living their lives unaware that they are affected by a disease.


Close family members who know their loved ones best are typically the first to notice memory issues or cognitive problems in an individual, but they are often hesitant to say something—even when they know something is wrong. According to a recent Alzheimer’s Association/Ad Council omnibus survey:


          “Fewer than half of Americans surveyed (44 percent) say they would talk to a loved one right away about seeing a doctor if they noticed signs of cognitive decline.

          Instead, those polled say they are more likely to check in with other relatives (56%) and do research online (50 percent) when observing troubling signs.”


Beth Smith-Boivin, Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Association Northeastern New York Chapter, says, “While discussing cognitive concerns with a family member can be challenging, it’s really important. Having these conversations and seeing a doctor can help facilitate early detection and diagnosis, offering individuals and families important benefits including access to treatment and clinical trials. Some forms of cognitive decline are treatable, so it’s important to get a medical evaluation.”


Although it can be a tough conversation to have, it’s important to discuss memory concerns in others because early detection of Alzheimer’s and other dementias can provide that person a better chance of being helped by treatment. To help individuals become more confident and prepared to discuss their concerns with a loved one, we asked our friends with the Alzheimer’s Association for 10 steps to approaching memory concerns. Continue reading to learn more.


1.         What changes in memory, thinking, or behavior do you see?

The first step you can take in approaching memory concerns with a loved one is to make note of specific changes in this person’s memory, thinking, and behavior that are unusual. What is the person doing – or not doing – that is out of the ordinary and causing concern?


2.         What other factors could be contributing?

Various conditions can cause changes in memory, thinking, and behavior. The next step is to consider any other variables that could be contributing: what other stressors or health issues may be causing the changes? 


3.         Learn about the signs of Alzheimer’s and other dementias

Research the early detection signs of Alzheimer’s and other dementias, as well as the benefits of an early diagnosis. It’s important to understand the specific signs to look for, as well as the treatment options.


4.         Reach out to family members and friends

Has anyone else noticed any changes? Consult other family members and friends to see if they have noticed anything concerning. Sometimes a discussion with a mutual connection can shed light on the seriousness of the situation and help you decide if action is necessary.


5.         Determine who should have the conversation to discuss concerns

Approaching memory concerns is a serious topic, and one that should be brought up by someone the individual trusts. Determine who would be best to have the conversation with the loved one. It could be you, a trusted family member or friend, or a combination. In some instances, it may be best to speak one-on-one so that the person doesn’t feel threatened by a group, but use your best judgment to determine what will be most comfortable for the individual.


6.         Decide on the best time and place to have the conversation

Once a conversation with your loved one has been deemed necessary, it’s important to have the conversation as soon as possible. To do this, you should first plan on a date and time, while considering where the person will feel most comfortable.


7.         Plan what you (or the person having the conversation) will say

Determine what it is you will say to your loved one before the conversation. If you are unsure how you can start this conversation, try the following: “I’ve noticed [change] in you, and I’m concerned. Have you noticed it? Are you worried? How have you been feeling lately? You haven’t seemed like yourself. I noticed you [specific example] and it worried me. Has anything else like that happened?”


8.         Offer to go with the person to the doctor

During your conversation, ask the person if they will see a doctor and show your support by offering to go to the appointment. The sooner an individual with Alzheimer’s or other dementias receives treatment, the better the chances of the treatment helping.


9.         If needed, have multiple conversations

In the event your loved one is not receptive to the concerns that were voiced about their memory, have multiple conversations on the topic to try to convey the seriousness of the situation.


10.       Reach out for help

Contact your doctor and the Alzheimer’s Association for information and support.


Although a difficult conversation to have, the benefits of sitting down and talking with a loved one about memory concerns can be invaluable. Smith-Boivin added, “Another benefit from an early diagnosis is it provides the person more time to plan for their future. You can be open with your family about legal, financial, and end-of-life decisions, which can provide peace of mind and reduce the burden on family members and prevent disagreements about your wishes.” To learn more about how to facilitate these difficult conversations, visit the “Hopeful Together” campaign website.


Cooler temperatures in fall and winter months can present additional dangers outdoors. Click below to learn tips to help avoid dementia-related wandering.