How do you get someone to accept memory loss?

2 answers | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
Motherinla asked...

My 68 mother in-law cannot remember the way home if she leaves by herself,cannot remember to take medicine, forgets if she receives her ssi checks in the mail, repeats herself several times when holding a conversation, ask the same question 3-5 times. Cannot remember what bills she has paid or where she places items. Forgets to eat. Sleeps most of the time. Refuses to admit that she needs help.

Expert Answers

Ladislav Volicer, M.D., Ph.D., is recognized as an international expert on advanced dementia care. He is a courtesy full professor at the School of Aging Studies, University of South Florida, Tampa, and visiting professor at the Third Medical Faculty, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic. Twenty-five years ago, he established one of the first dementia special care units.

Sometime it is useful to demonstrate to her how impaired she is. I would expect that she has also impairment of executive function that can be measured by asking her to draw a clock with all numbers and put clock hands at 10 min after 1. So she needs to accept her general impairment not just memory loss.

Community Answers

Deborah cooke answered...

Good morning. I hear your extreme frustration. Unfortunately, it's difficult for a person with memory loss to accept their deficiencies. They have developed a new reality, unlike yours. For example, your mother asks to eat lunch, although she just ate lunch 30 minutes ago. She clearly does not remember having lunch so when you remind her of the fact, she refuses to believe you. Her reality is that she has not had lunch and needs to eat. Your reality is that she did eat lunch and can't believe she is still hungry. I believe this difference of reality is the most frustrating part of the experience.

Getting her to accept these memory problems will be very difficult, and may not happen at all. Even if she accepts it one minute, the next she might not. You may want to see if family, friends, or her physician can help explain the problems she is experiencing. Be prepared for her to be angry and despondent, if she isn't already. This is a very sensitive topic and can be threatening to her. She may see it as losing her independence, being told what to think and how to feel, etc. In her "mind," she is just fine. Going forward, the big challenge is adapting to her reality.

I wish I could help more. Just are not alone in this difficult journey. Breathe deeply and often.