“You just answered your questions,” Dr. Bud said. “Multi-tasking becomes problematical for older people at different ages, causing them to lose focus.”
Losing focus, he points out, is different from losing memory. With the former something isn’t registering because of distraction, lack of concentration, a lapse. Dr. Bud’s example: our hands may do things automatically without it “registering” when we’re thinking about something else—like putting the car keys in an unlikely place because we see a file drawer, realize we need to get something out and need two hands to do so.
“When we find what we’ve misplaced, memory is re-established: ‘Oh yes, I went over to the file and put my keys down next to it in order to be able to open the drawer and take those papers out.'”
There is a solution for older people (and possibly for some of us as well) who experience these lapses. The key is to anticipate the need to maintain focus (for example when we have something in our hands), then concentrate. Sr. Advisor R assures us it can be done. Indeed she lives alone and doesn’t lose things. And that should be reassuring.
On the other hand, we realize how this kind of forgetfulness can cause some older parents and their children to over-react, fearing this is the beginning of something serious.
Should this be the case we all need to realize it may be nothing more than neglecting the discipline to anticipate and focus; or it may be a reaction to medications or something else relatively benign. But should there be any doubt—
In our efforts to help parents age well, which include efforts to empower them, our parents’ primary physician is the first person to contact. Ideally our parents should be the ones to do that. We, of course, can offer to go with them to the appointment or even make the phone call for the appointment. We can reiterate the goal is to be certain there’s no problem.
And we can always take over if there’s great resistance and/or life or limb seem in jeopardy. That said, according to a neurologist at Burke Rehabilitation Hospital and Medical Research Center in White Plains, NY., a show of respect and actions that empower are most important at these emotional times.
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