As we grow older, it is not uncommon to find our memories beginning to fade. This may be down to the onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s or it may simply be a natural product of the ageing process. For those of us who are in a position to do so, what can we do to support our elders when their memories start to go?
As memory loss progresses, the person will experience increasing difficulties in performing tasks that follow a specific sequence, including getting dressed and making a cup of tea. You can help them out by breaking the sequence down into further, smaller steps. You could write these instructions down and make sure they are clearly visible. You could also make sure the items the person needs on a daily basis are easily accessible.
Sometimes the person may get lost outside the house or forget their way home. If you are able to, you should go with them to make sure someone is close by to guide them. If they give their consent, you could inform other people in the area of their difficulties so they can look out for them. If you are unable to accompany them, make sure they carry some form of identification and some contact numbers of people they know.
It is also possible for the person to become lost at home. They may forget where each room is located, for example. In this scenario, you can help them by putting up signs on the doors so the person will know what each door leads to. It is possible to buy dementia-friendly signs if this is necessary.
Perhaps the person you know is forgetting upcoming events such as appointments and visits. Here, you can help the person to use clocks and calendars to remind themselves of when they have to be at a particular place. If they are given an appointment card, ensure that it is placed somewhere the person can easily view it. If you know how the person used to remember events in the past, use a method which is very similar to it as this is often easier for them than learning something entirely new.
Above all, remember that memory loss can be frightening and confusing for the person it afflicts. Always be patient, kind and helpful to them.
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