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Alzheimer’s and memories: Use mementos as cues

Life is like a tapestry, woven from memories of people and events. Your unique tapestry reminds you of who you are, where you’ve been and what you’ve done.

Early in the disease, individuals with Alzheimer’s disease have difficulty making new memories, but memories from early in life are often relatively preserved. Sadly, Alzheimer’s disease gradually takes these memories. If you’re caring for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s, you can help him or her manage the onset of memory loss by creating a tangible bank of memories. A memory box or bank might also help reduce feelings of depression, which can occur with dementia.

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Long-term care: Early planning pays off

It’s best to talk about long-term care early — before medical or personal care is needed. Here’s help understanding, choosing and financing long-term care.By Mayo Clinic Staff

Long-term care is a term used to describe home and community-based services for adults who need help caring for themselves.

If you’re considering long-term care options for yourself, a parent, or other friend or relative, start the research and discussions early. If you wait, an injury or illness might force your hand — leading to a decision that might not be best in the long run.

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Alzheimer’s and dementia: Tips for better communication

Rethinking your listening and speaking strategies can help you communicate with a person who has dementia.By Mayo Clinic Staff

Communicating with someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia can be challenging.

A family member or friend with dementia may have difficulty understanding you, and you may have a hard time understanding what he or she is trying to communicate. There’s potential for misunderstanding, confusion or frustration in both directions — making communication even more difficult.

You’ll need patience, good listening skills and new strategies. Here’s help easing your frustration and improving your communication.

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Mixed Messages Complicate Caregiving

Every Sunday night, my former client Anna became exasperated when her 85-year-old mother, Lillian, had her once-a-week phone call with Anna’s brother, Don. With Anna, Lillian was perennially sour, complaining of pain. But on her calls with Don, she sounded chipper and contented. Anna stewed that her mother felt entitled to dump her negative feelings on her all week but then shared only positive feelings with her son.

Part of the reason, as Anna well knew, was that her mother had always favored her brother and wanted to please, not worry, him. The fact that it was the dutiful daughter, not the distant son, who nowadays took care of her didn’t change that.

But Lillian’s seemingly split personality and contradictory communication also reveals something about human behavior: All of us pick and choose what we say to whom and when because we have different relationships with different people and want to make different impressions on them. You may give one person the encyclopedia version of what you did that day and another the CliffsNotes. You may be emotionally expressive with a family member in one moment and sullen with another the next. You reserve the right to change your story or shade it various ways for different audiences.

These inconsistent messages can be confusing under ordinary circumstances but make family caregiving much more complicated. When an aging parent gives diverging accounts of herself to her adult children, it can inflame the natural tendency of rivalrous siblings to disagree about what that parent’s condition and needs are. Caregiving works best as a team sport. For family members to work together in concerted fashion, they need to start with the same basic information and a common vision. Receiving different reports from a parent undermines that.

Without becoming mind readers, how can family caregivers sort through a care receiver’s messages to figure out what she truly needs? Read more here.