Recently an acquaintance shared the story of going to dinner with some long-time friends and their elderly mother. She said “It was like having dinner with Dory from Finding Nemo”. The mother, you see, has some very prevalent memory issues. Throughout the dinner she often repeated herself as well as repeated questions to others that had previously been answered. The atmosphere at the table quickly turned awkward as the woman’s adult children were frustrated by the repetition and their “need” to correct their mother over and over and over and over. You get the picture.
When those we love have memory issues it can be frustrating and embarrassing in social settings. So how can we cope with the “Dory” in our life without becoming frustrated, making guests feel uncomfortable, as well as potentially escalating the situation into a public scene?
- Pre-plan the outing
- When going to a restaurant get the menu ahead of time. Ask others to pre-pick their meal and help your loved one choose their meal, this way there are no need for menu’s that can increase confusion.
- Choose a restaurant that is familiar and call ahead of time to make a reservation and request a table in a quiet area of the restaurant (not close to the front, near the kitchen or in a primary pathway to the bathrooms). Keeping distractions to a minimum can assist with focus.
- Choose a time of day when the restaurant won’t be as busy.
- Explain to guests ahead of time that Mom is having memory issues so that they are not surprised by the repetition or other potential erratic behaviors.
- Stop correcting – It simply doesn’t work because, to state the obvious, they don’t remember! This tactic only creates frustration and awkwardness for both you and the guests.
- Just answer the questions – people who already struggle with advanced memory loss can become increasingly confused when in a social setting especially in a foreign environment (outside of their home). Confusion, repetition as well as agitation are part of the disease and cannot be “fixed. It takes only seconds to answer their questions, so why not save yourself the aggravation and just do it.
Most importantly, be loving in your responses. They are not repeating themselves just to annoy you. They cannot control their confusion but you can control your reaction to it.
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