Living with a spouse with memory loss can be part of the process of aging together, and knowing how to effectively cope with the changes it brings to both of your lives can be the key to continuing to live a rich, fulfilling life. For most couples, memory loss can be managed successfully without interfering with health or happiness, and your relationship can be made even stronger.
What Causes Memory Loss?
Memory loss can most commonly be caused either by the gradual effects of aging or by a medical condition. Learning the difference can help you determine if a diagnosis should be sought for your spouse and if medication is required.
Age-Related Memory Loss
Memory loss caused by aging is often seen as “forgetfulness” and can include:
- Momentarily forgetting a name, a birthdate, or a word;
- Misplacing items such as keys, phones, glasses, or hearing aids;
- Missing an appointment and remembering it later;
- Forgetting an item or items while shopping.
All of these things might cause a slight inconvenience, but they don’t alter or affect daily life in a profound way.
Medical-Related Memory Loss
Memory loss caused by a medical condition is typically more acute, and can include:
- Changes in mood or personality;
- Getting confused and lost;
- Thinking the present is the past, or vice versa;
- Failing to recognize family or friends.
A memory test can be administered by your spouse’s doctor to help determine if there is a need for medication or medical intervention. In either case, working together with your spouse can help everyone navigate through living memory loss while remaining happy, healthy, and engaged.
Coping with Memory Loss in a Spouse
The level of care required will depend on your loved one’s degree of memory loss. If a loss is noticed and addressed early on, you can take steps to slow its progression and help your spouse retain their memories and cognitive function.
Sitting down and discussing memory-related loss with as soon as possible can help you come up with a plan together, so your spouse feels supported rather than managed. This can help you, as a couple, to come up with and agree on several ideas for helping them cope, and discuss ways for you also to be supported through the process.
Emotions can be a challenge when coping with a loss of memory. You can help your spouse to feel more secure and confident independently or in combination with help from outside your home or family. Every family is unique. How you will choose to cope and deal with the emotions attached to caring for a spouse with memory loss will be most effective, when you build them around your specific situation.
Remember, the stronger each of you is as an individual, the stronger your bond of trust will be as a couple; you’ll be better equipped to navigate living with memory loss together.
What Care Does a Spouse with Memory Loss Require?
If memory loss is mild, caring for your spouse may not require a significant change to lifestyle or routines. In many cases, you may be able to address minor issues with a redistribution of household chores and responsibilities. Your spouse may need help with functions like cooking, shopping, paying bills, or pet care but may not need help with individual tasks like tidying up the kitchen after a meal or doing laundry.
Depending on your situation, you may also need to accompany your spouse on doctor visits and monitor any medication regimens. The latter can include both reminding them, so they don’t miss a dose, and making sure they don’t mistakenly take multiple doses.
If memory loss is more advanced affecting an increasing number of activities of daily living (ADLs), you may begin looking at ways to assist your loved one with regular routines such as dressing, bathing, eating, and resting at appropriate times. Often, all of this care can be accomplished in the home.
Coping With Severe Memory Loss in a Spouse
If memory loss progresses, or a medical condition causes it to advance, it is normal to need help with a spouse’s memory care.
You can look at in-home care, in the form of family members helping out, or official home health aides with experience in memory care. This can be a great benefit to you as your spouse’s caregiver, especially if other health issues are present or your spouse’s sleep schedule becomes erratic. Having an extra pair of helping hands available when you need them can give you the necessary time and space to attend to a little self-care.
By taking care of yourself, you are ensuring you are better equipped to care for your spouse.
Is it Time for a Change?
Living with a spouse with memory loss can be challenging but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. If you’re considering making the to switch to a senior living community focused on memory-care, like Kensington Place Redwood City where your spouse can be supported around the clock, get in touch today. In many cases, couples can move together with customized care protocols put in place to suit individual needs – so you can remain as independent as possible.
Memory loss is life changing for all involved. At Kensington Place, we provide a state-of-the-art memory care program, a higher staff-to-resident ratio than industry standards, and more advanced care services. Our promise is to love and care for your family as we do our own.
For additional resources regarding your loved one’s condition, please read on about our Memory Care, Alzheimer’s Care and Dementia Care.