In last week’s blog I discussed how memory works and why it becomes affected in dementia. Today, I will look at how memory loss can affect day-to-day life and what can be done to help.
Memory loss affects each person differently. Some of the common memory problems include:
Memory loss has a significant impact on both the person with dementia and their family and friends. The person with dementia may feel less confident, frustrated, worried or embarrassed as a result of their memory difficulties. This can lead to them withdrawing from social situations and stop doing activities they enjoy.
Family and friends may feel frustrated as they have to repeat themselves often and day-to-day activities become more difficult. Some people feel as though their loved one is ‘disappearing’ – if you feel this way, make sure to speak to friends, relatives or a healthcare professional to get support.
As the person with dementia changes, it’s important to focus on the present rather than the future, and enjoy the moments that you have together as much as possible.
It is incredibly important to support the person with dementia so they feel confident and can stay independent for as long as possible. When they experience memory loss, talk to them about how they are feeling. You can break down tasks into smaller, easier steps to help them continue to do the task on their own. An Occupational Therapist will be able to provide detailed advice on techniques for supporting someone with memory loss.
There are a number of non-medical therapies available to help with memory loss. One that has shown some success and is often used for people with dementia is Reminiscence therapy, which involves encouraging someone with dementia to talk about a period, event or person from their past. This can be done at home. For example, you can start Reminiscence therapy by using an old photo, a favourite song or a familiar smell, like a spouse’s perfume, for the person with dementia. This can trigger memories and it will usually help them to start talking about their experiences.
Professional therapists may also offer cognitive stimulation therapy or cognitive rehabilitation for people with mild to moderate dementia.
There are medications that can be prescribed for someone with a diagnosis of dementia and that may help with day-to-day memory problems. These are called cholinesterase inhibitors, and include donepezil, rivastigmine and galantamine. Whether they work and what side effects someone experiences changes from person to person. It may be helpful to ask your doctor the following questions:
To find out more detailed advice on what you can do have a look at the following resources:
Remember to speak to others about how you are feeling and the difficulties you are facing. You’re not alone.
This article is based on research publications and information from well-known organisations in the dementia space. Sources include: