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Winter 2023
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Dear Alzheimer's Association,

Lately, I've noticed that my mom's memory is not as sharp as it used to be. For example, she forgot my birthday this year and often forgets entire conversations we have. I'd like her to see a doctor but don't know the best way to approach it. How can I convince my mom to get checked out? The last thing I want to do is hurt or upset her.

Noticing in Nevada 

Dear Noticing,

It can be particularly worrisome for adult children when they suspect a parent is experiencing memory problems or cognitive decline. It can also be difficult to know how to best approach the topic — raising concerns and stepping in to support them is often a challenging role reversal. However, if you think something is wrong, it's important that your mom gets evaluated and obtains an accurate diagnosis.

There are several approaches you can take, but be mindful of your parent's sense of independence and autonomy. You are the expert when it comes to knowing how your parent may respond in a particular situation.

It's important to be reassuring when bringing up the subject, and to validate your parent's concerns as they raise them. It's also important to send the message that you care about them and that "we're in this together."

If you feel like your mom would be receptive to a direct approach, try talking to her about how you're concerned about her memory and emphasize that a physician can help assess what's happening from a medical standpoint. Add that there may be medications that can help or it may be something treatable that's causing her confusion or memory loss.

Taking an indirect approach without mentioning memory issues or different behaviors can also be productive, especially if there is concern or even fear of how your parent may respond. Try speaking in generalities. For instance, say, "It's time for your yearly physical" or "You need to see your physician for a prescription refill." Focus on a physical ailment they're experiencing, like a sore shoulder or back pain, and suggest making an appointment with the doctor.

Offer to make the appointment for them and keep a list of your concerns. If you feel comfortable, call the physician ahead of time and explain your concerns so he or she can broach the subject of memory issues with your parent.

A timely diagnosis of Alzheimer's or dementia means that the person living with the disease can access available treatments and participate in making plans for the future, including decisions around care, finances and living arrangements.

It is not unusual for a parent to push back when their adult child raises concerns about their memory. If this happens to you, know that the Alzheimer's Association free 24/7 Helpline (800.272.3900) is here to help you navigate this challenging and sensitive subject.




Mariam Schrage
Alzheimer's Association
Senior Associate Director of Helpline Operations

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