10 Steps to Approach Memory Concerns in Others
If you notice changes in friends, family, or others close to you and are concerned for their health – particularly when it involves changes in memory, thinking, or behavior – it can be difficult to know what to do or say. Although it’s natural to be uncertain or nervous about how to offer support, these changes could be a sign of a significant health concern. Use the guide below to help you feel more confident and prepared as you assess the situation and take action.
Assess the Situation
1. What Changes in Memory, Thinking, or Behavior Do You See?
What’s the person doing – or not doing – that’s out of the ordinary and causing concern?
2. What Else Is Going On?
Various conditions can cause changes in memory, thinking, and behavior. What health or lifestyle issues could be a factor? E.g., family stress or health issues like diabetes or depression.
3. Learn About the Signs of Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias and the Benefits of an Early Diagnosis.
Read 10 Early Signs and Symptoms to educate yourself on 10 common warning signs of Alzheimer’s and why it’s important to know if dementia is causing the changes. Do you notice any of the signs in the person you’re concerned about?
4. Has Anyone Else Noticed the Change(s)?
Find out if friends and family have seen changes. What are they?
Take Action Through Conversation
5. Who Should Have the Conversation to Discuss Concerns?
It could be you, a trusted family member or friend, or a combination. It’s usually best to speak one-on-one so that the person doesn’t feel threatened by a group, but use your best judgment to determine what will likely be most comfortable for the individual.
6. What Is the Best Time and Place to Have the Conversation?
Have the conversation as soon as possible. In addition to choosing a date and time, consider where the person will feel most comfortable.
7. What Will You or the Person Having the Conversation Say?
Try the following:
I’ve noticed [change] in you, and I’m concerned. Have you noticed it? Are you worried?
How have you been feeling lately? You haven’t seemed like yourself.
I noticed you [specific example] and it worried me. Has anything else like that happened?
8. Offer to Go With the Person to the Doctor.
Ask the person if he or she will see a doctor and show your support by offering to go to the appointment.
Some words of encouragement may include:
There are lots of things that could be causing this, and dementia may or may not be one of them. Let’s see if the doctor can help us figure out what’s going on.
The sooner we know what’s causing these problems, the sooner we can address it.
I think it would give us both peace of mind if we talked with a doctor.
9. If Needed, Have Multiple Conversations.
The first conversation may not be successful. Write down some notes about the experience to help plan for the next conversation.
- Date/time of day:
- What worked well?
- What didn’t?
- What was the result?
- What can be done differently next time?
Reach Out for Help
10. Turn to the Alzheimer’s Association for Information and Support.
Call our free 24/7 Helpline (800-272-3900) to speak with a master’s-level clinician who can provide more information about how to discuss memory concerns with someone close to you.
Visit the Alzheimer’s Association & AARP Community Resource Finder (alz.org/CRF) to find local resources and your closest Association chapter.