Friday, February 22, 2013

Are You Taking Care Of Parents Who Have Memory Problems ?

When Not All Memory Issues Are From Dementia: Older Parents Who Selectively Forget 

"Memories, what's to painful to remember we simply choose to forget"..... The Way We Were...Barbra Streisand

O.K., how many of my readers are taking care of elderly  parents who behave at times as if their batteries are not fully charged? I don't mean to be rude or crass, but sometimes having a sense of humor is helpful when you are dealing with older adults who appear at times to be turning their dementia on and off. I'm sure a few Gerontology professionals would chime in here and point out that  "a mind is a terrible thing to lose" and a matter that is nothing to  jest about.   

Memory Loss Is Not A Rock Solid Condition

But, I have noticed that when memory loss and other signs  of early dementia show up in a family member ...the picture that you see is not always as it appears on first glance. There is you see, a psychological component. 

 For years, my sister has been telling me that dad has "selective dementia" . She has been trying to convince me that dad's memory loss varies with what's  he wants to remember and more importantly, what he want to  accomplish (or not sccomplish). In essence, our dad she says,  is much more capable of  remembering and functioning normally at times than he leads others to believe.  My sister says dad is a character...and I AGREE !

Turning Memory Loss On And Off

The retired therapist  in me,  used to believe that my sister who cared for dad before me,  was in denial and that surely someone like dad, would not be able to turn on and off their memory symptoms. Well, attention is now living near me  and I can tell you that dad willfully chooses to forget plenty, especially when it comes to eating whatever he feels like and whatever he is told he should not eat. I shall demonstrate what I have in mind.

Pickles And Pastrami

When I asked  my father why he continues to eat potato chips, pickles and Pastrami when he has  hypertension and he has been told over and over to lose the deli habit, he replies  "oh I forgot".  

Chocolate Donuts And Diabetes 

 When I ask my 86 year old dad who has Diabetes why he has bought yet  another box of chocolate donuts,  he responds innocently "no one ever told me I have Diabetes" (he takes 11 different medications for all sorts of conditions).  When I ask dad why he isn't using the $80.00 T.V. ears I bought him to help him hear better and keep the sound in the apartment down to a quieter roar he ignores me.
Eating Steak With No Teeth

Every so often dad  tells his aide that he would sure love a nice juicy steak for dinner. He convinces her each time to fix him one, giving her a series of  sad sack stories he rotates as to why he needs a steak. Mind you, dad has no teeth to chew the steak, complains of jaw pain, has a lousy history of heart disease and has a limited budget for steak. The last time he pulled the steak ploy he told his aide that he  hasn't had a steak in 10 years so she bought him a steak and he somehow ate it. A week later, I was out food shopping and I called dad and asked him if he needs anything at the butcher?  Dad says, "yeah , bring me home a steak, I haven't had one in years"!

Yes....... not all forgetting is dementia!

To read more on taking care of older adults visit: 

 If you need help regarding Senior Care Services and Eldercare contact my friend Sheri Morris MSW, ACSW, LCSW a very experienced Geriatric Social Worker. Her website is My Senior Care Connection. 
 Readers please share your stories.....we all need a good laugh.

  Pastrami image from

 C. Dianne Zweig is the author of Hot Kitchen & Home Collectibles of the 30s, 40s, 50s and Hot Cottage Collectibles for Vintage Style Homes. She is also the Editor of I Antique Online an actively growing internet based resource community for people who buy, sell or collect antiques, collectibles and art. You can find Dianne’s fabulous retro and vintage kitchen, home and cottage collectibles at The Collinsville Antiques Company of New Hartford, CT, a 22,000 feet antique emporium with an in-house retro cafĂ©. To read more articles by C. Dianne Zweig click on this link: C. Dianne Zweig’s Blog Kitsch ‘n Stuff Email me at Visit my website, Dianne is a member of: The American Society of Journalists and Authors The Society of Professional Journalists


  1. My 94 year old Mother lives in a interdependent senior apartment close to me so that I can keep an eye on her. I definitely believe she has selective memory. Although I no her memory isn't what it use to be it is better then she claims. The one that her grandchildren laugh most about is when she claims she doesn't remember how to play a game. We are a game family and so when she is over we will make sure to get a game out. The first words out of her mouth are I am not sure I remember how to play! But in the end she is most likely the winner. It is amazing how quickly she remembers and how much she loves to win. Taking care of an ageing parent is challenging and exhausting at times but I wouldn't change it for anything. Thanks for your posts on ageing parents. It helps to no I am not the only one going though this.

  2. Yes, this is so familiar. I am principally responsible for my 86 year old parents who live a block away. My mother must be mentally prepared to be "ready" to go to a senior club meeting. I must remind her the week before, the day before and the morning of. She will get out of what she doesn't want to do despite my brother across the country's harping on me that she needs friends and needs to get out. She does exactly what she wants to do - no more no less... like go to the senior center and get a blasted box of free food for herself and another for my father. She proudly says, "I can get one for your dad, too!" Her response when I ask why? "It's free!" She can't walk through her laundry room because of the boxes of food. Way off brand cans of shrimp, boxes of milk, and bags of whole wheat pasta are all over her dryer, her shelves, her tool box - and she doesn't like or eat any of it. She can't go to one of my son's school concerts if a flake of snow is aimlessly falling but by golly, she'll get on her boots and slog through slush and get somebody to haul two boxes of senior stock box food out to her car in a blizzard. "It's free!"

  3. Kathy, loved your post.....YUP understand!