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When Memory Fades: One Family's Checklist

Jack and Judith Allen have been married for 55 years and going strong. Judith is moving a little slower these days and doesn’t talk as much. As she experiences levels of dementia, her family members have learned a lot. Their daughter Leisa now lives with the couple to assist in her mother’s care. During a recent interview, they provided some valuable insights and suggestions for others who may be facing a similar journey with their loved one.

The Allen’s Checklist:

1. Notice if the behavior seems inappropriate as it relates to preparing finances or doing activities. For Leisa, she felt that some of the behavior, including anger “was not my Mom.”

2. Bring in a third party if you’re uncertain. Close friends or acquaintances might not notice subtle changes in behavior but an experienced clinician or geriatric case manager may and their perspective is vital.

3. Recognize that the patient’s timeline for waking and activities may change so be patient if the patient moves slower.

4. Pursue activities that are important to the individual. Since Judith is an active reader, the family reads some of the newspaper to her.

5. Pay attention to simple hygiene needs. Make sure the individual is getting enough water and attending to other activities of daily living—be more closely observant in these areas.

6. Keep a routine in the house and bring in outside caregivers for select periods of time so family members have some free time. Jack has select times that he goes to the gym but feels good that Judith is being cared for at the house by his daughter or other caregivers.

7. Go to a support group and get some tips from others. For the Allen’s The LJCC’s Memory Café was helpful.

8. Have it be “OK” for you to admit to others that your spouse is having some problems. Jack finally realized it’s important to talk to others about the situation.

9. Even if the patient is quiet most of the time, provide opportunities for the individual to talk and share insights.

10. Investigate clinical trials; these can provide insights related to diagnosis and provide medications and/or evaluations that are free.

11. Encourage friends of the patient to visit or plan outings with friends.

Jack, Judith and Leisa Allen

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