Have you noticed your mother’s memory declining? Do you question your husband’s judgment in areas where he has always displayed competence in until recently? Has your sister been behaving strangely lately and falsely accusing you of taking her money?

If you’re in that uncomfortable place where you suspect your loved one may have Alzheimer’s, it can be difficult to know what to do. It’s a touchy subject to raise, and one that requires careful thought before doing so

Start by considering these four suggestions:

1. Talk with a Couple of Other Close Family Members or Friends Check in with others who know your loved one to see if they’ve noticed any changes. Do this in a respectful, confidential manner to avoid unnecessary hurt or embarrassment.

2. Ask Your Loved One How She Feels Her Memory Is Working Some people are aware of and worried about their memory. They may have noticed some lapses and might be relieved to talk about it. Others, of course, may become angry, defensive and deny all concerns. Knowing your loved one as you do, you can consider if a direct and gentle approach would be effective or not.

3. When you talk with your family member, be sure to choose a good time of day and use “I statements” such as, “I’m a little worried about you, Mom. I’m wondering how you’re doing. I thought I noticed you have a harder time lately with your memory and wondered if you’ve noticed the same thing.” This approach can decrease someone’s defensiveness and is generally more effective than a statement like this: “You seem like you’re having trouble with your memory.”

4. Avoid using the “Alzheimer’s” word for now since it’s not known if your loved one has this diagnosis or not. Consider instead using words like “memory problems.”

5. Persuade Him to Go to the Doctor Your loved one needs an assessment by a physician. You may find that your loved one is resisting going to the doctor. If this is the case, you can explain that it’s time for an annual check-up. If you’re not able to get your husband to agree to go the doctor, you could talk to your physician’s office ahead of time about your concerns and ask them to call your family member to schedule a doctor’s visit. Also, in some families, there’s one person who seems to be able to be more persuasive than the others; if so, don’t hesitate to ask that person for assistance so that your loved one can get the assessment and care that he needs.

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