Minnesota Now with Cathy Wurzer

What to do if you notice signs of memory loss in your older relatives

Working with PT
Alan Shapiro works with physical therapist Nicole Rennie at Alan's group home in Bloomington, Minn., in June 2012. Rennie said regular exercise can help prolong the life of those living with Alzhemier's disease.
Jeffrey Thompson | MPR News 2012

As families gather for the holidays, you may notice worrying signs of memory problems in your older relatives. Maybe your mom missed the steps of a familiar recipe. Your dad might have had trouble with the TV remote. Or your aunt might have seemed confused why she was even at the family gathering in the first place.

What should you do if you see these signs? Karla Hult joined host Cathy Wurzer this time last year with advice. Hult is a broadcast journalist and the founder of So Many Goodbyes, a project working to help families living with and caring for loved ones with Alzheimer's disease. Hult’s father Bob had Alzheimer’s for nearly a decade before he died of the brain disease in 2019 at the age of 80.

First and foremost, Hult said, listeners should remember that memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer’s aren’t easy for anyone — not for the older relatives who are losing a piece of themselves, nor for the younger family members caring for their older relatives.

Hult strongly recommends checking with a doctor before doing anything else to make sure that the signs you’re seeing aren’t side effects of medication, dehydration, low blood sugar or something else that’s more benign. A medical professional can also help you talk to your older relatives about next steps if they’re reluctant to entertain the topic.

Hult said it can also be valuable to compare notes with other family members and friends to check if they’re seeing what you’re seeing.

And as you embark on your caregiving journey, Hult emphasized the importance of leaning on your support system for strength.

“You will also need support … to ensure that your loved one remains safe, and that your loved one remains healthy, and that he or she is protected throughout the journey,” Hult said.

Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.

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