One of the defining symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease is memory loss. Forgetting important things, like taking medication on time, and even loved ones, can be physically and mentally challenging for the person affected by memory loss and their caregiver.
Those living with memory loss or Alzheimer’s, especially seniors, can find it challenging to cope with the severity of their forgetfulness which can also put them in harm's way.
There are, however, many ways of helping one cope with memory loss. Today, we’ll look at some of the best methods to adopt when caring for seniors who live with Alzheimer’s to help them stay safe and independent.
The Symptoms Of Memory Loss
- Forgetting people’s names and sometimes even faces altogether
- Struggling to remember daily routines and chores
- Forgetting to take medications on time
- Forgetting key life experiences
- Misplacing items around the house
- Getting lost in a familiar place
- Forgetting commonly used routes
- Difficulty following conversations
- Forgetting appointments and important dates (such as birthdays and holidays)
How To Help Seniors Cope With Memory Loss
Memory loss affects the emotional well-being of patients to a significant degree. A loss of self-confidence and feeling embarrassed are one of the first signs.
Slowly patients start to withdraw from social gatherings and lose interest in hobbies they once loved. Then there is the fallout from being forgetful.
Forgetting important dates or misplacing items, can cause anger and mistrust to stem and fester. This can become emotionally and mentally challenging to deal with daily.
Thus, to help seniors and their caregivers cope with memory loss, here are some steps to take to make life a bit easier. :
- Encourage seniors to talk about their feelings. If nothing else, this could help get a load off their chest and give them an outlet to vent their frustration, anger, and sadness.
- If your loved one is starting to feel agitated because of their forgetfulness, change the topic or activity to take their mind off of it.
- Try engaging your loved one in work or number games. This will keep their mind sharp and solving these games will give them a sense of accomplishment.
- Address your loved one’s concerns about the future and how the disease will progress. Keep them focused on the present and assuage their fears as best as you can.
Practical Solutions For Coping With Memory Loss
Forgetting To Take Medications On Time
People affected by dementia, Alzheimer's, and other mental diseases can find it hard to remember recent conversations, names, numbers, and even when to take their medications. This can happen even in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and is a symptom that caregivers should always be aware of.
Some tips to help manage this include using a diary, journal, or calendar to help keep track of important dates, chores, and events. Having a schedule of all the medications that an individual needs to take and at what times pinned on a fridge can also be extremely beneficial to help keep medication management in check. If one does not already use such items, encourage them to start doing so.
However, sometimes no matter how many sticky notes or reminders you leave it can still be hard to remember medication timings, especially when dealing with a complex medication schedule where more than five medications a day are being taken at different times.
For seniors with complex medication schedules, it may also be worthwhile investing in an automatic pill dispenser that is a medication management device designed to help keep up with even the most complex schedules which helps reduce medication errors and negates the need to be always mindful of the time.
Misplacing & Losing Items
Another common occurrence arising out of memory loss is lost or misplaced items. Common everyday items like keys or glasses will end up misplaced or lost. Such situations can cause a lot of frustration and create mistrust between seniors and caregivers.
You could help by keeping track of such items yourself and keeping them in places that would be easy for your loved one to find. You might also want to invest in copies of such items just in case they are permanently lost.
Rooms and drawers should also be kept tidy to avoid any clutter that could make finding things harder. It also helps to label trays and drawers for different items like mail, keys, glasses, or documents.
Forgetting Names, People, & Events
By far one of the most heartbreaking fallouts from memory loss is seniors forgetting their loved ones.
What is most important in this situation is that you do not take something like this personally. Your loved one is not doing this on purpose and it is simply a result of the disease taking its toll on your loved one’s brain.
You could help by giving small cues or reminders to your loved one, without mentioning the memory loss in any way, shape, or form. You could refer to people around your loved one by their relation i.e. “look at how much our sons have grown” or “your niece just graduated high school”.
Use different aids like a memory book which contains pictures of family and friends, and little anecdotes to keep reminding your loved one of their history and ties with everyone close to them.
Helping The Caregiver Cope
While there is no denying that Alzheimer’s is difficult for those affected by it, the disease also takes its toll on a caregiver.
As a caregiver, you should also make sure to take care of your health (both physical and mental). Taking a break now and then, or asking for help is something you should never be ashamed of.
Certain devices can also help ease the challenges faced by caregivers. Companies such as Northwood Intouch, in Halifax, NS, for example, offer a range of senior care products and services that are designed to ease the struggles of seniors living with Alzheimer’s while also helping caregivers get the peace of mind they deserve!