Memory loss: our top tips to help your loved ones live with impaired memory

Sometimes, it takes a famous face to remind us how memory loss and dementia can affect anyone. “Die Hard” movie star Bruce Willis recently announced that he has been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia. As a result, requests for information from dementia and Alzheimer’s charities have surged.

However, memory loss isn’t necessarily a sign of dementia. All of us can be potentially forgetful if we are tired, stressed, ill or suffering from lack of quality sleep. (As any parent of a restless or teething baby will agree!)

Lack of concentration can lead to temporarily forgetting normally ‘automatic’ actions, like having to check if we actually locked the front door behind us when trying to get kids, dog and grandma into the car!

Common memory loss moments

Memory loss can fundamentally affect people’s lives in different ways, with common issues being:

  • Forgetting the names of familiar objects or people’s names
  • Losing (often just misplacing) everyday items such as house keys or reading glasses
  • Getting lost when out and about in familiar places
  • Not recalling recent events or conversations
  • Not finding the right word to say
  • Not remembering medical appointments or key dates such as birthdays
  • Not being sure if medication has been taken or not
  • Not recognising faces very well
  • Forgetting how to do tasks that previously have been almost automatic, like making a cup of coffee
Memory loss and dementia: not a done deal

The good news is that the UK Alzheimer’s Association predicts that just 10%-15% of people who have memory changes will go on to develop dementia. As Helen Payton, a dementia advisor says:

“Forgetfulness can be a normal sign of ageing, or it can happen due to stress, vitamin deficiencies, thyroid problems or other treatable conditions.”

Helpful hints for dealing with memory loss

The other good news is that even if your loved one is experiencing memory loss due to dementia, there are simple ways you can help them. Here are just a few suggestions.

  • Take your time

If a loved one is struggling for the right word while you’re having a chat, give them time to find it. Be patient as otherwise they might feel pressured, which can make it even harder to find the word they want to use.

  • The back route

The same can apply to responding to a direct question. We’ve all seen quiz contestants “freeze” when put under pressure for even the most simple of answers.

One of our staff used the “roundabout route” technique with her father when something needed fixing in his house and she had no idea of where it was, but knew her father would. Instead of asking “Where’s the fusebox?”, for example, she’d say “I need to turn the electricity off, but I can’t remember where to do that.” Her father would reply and include the fusebox location as part of the reply.

  • Remember so and so?

When meeting someone they know, and their name slips their mind, simply introduce them. For example, “This is John and he’s your friend from the tennis club.”

  • Create a memory box

A memory box provides prompts for recalling information. As in the example above, you might add a photo and brief summary of information about John, or even an object like a tennis ball, so they can make the connection.

  • Step by step

Many everyday tasks are actually a series of steps, and for a person with dementia, it can be hard to remember every step. So make it easy; put the teabags next to the kettle, and have a step by step guide written out on the wall by the kettle.

  • Where did I put my keys?

We can all relate to this one! Create a specific place for keys to be stored, such as a hook, an ornate box, or a space in a specific drawer, where keys are always replaced after use. Make them easy to spot and pick up as well, perhaps with a big red ball rather than a little key fob.

Key finders

Technology can really help if keys are ending up in odd places and need finding on a regular basis. We’ve tried two solutions that attach to the bunch of keys and make a noise so you can locate the keys. One system uses a Bluetooth connection to a smart phone or smart speaker, so you just click on the app or ask the smart speaker to “Find my keys”. However, the Bluetooth receivers don’t have a huge range and struggle with thicker walls.

Other systems use an RF transmitter on a small remote control. You click the “find” button and the key fob tag beeps. It’s seems more reliable and has a larger range – so long as nobody misplaces the “find my eyes” remote!

Calendars and smart speakers

Many people with memory loss rely on a desk diary or calendar to make notes of important appointments. That’s fine so long as you know what day it is today! Talking to a smart speaker unit and asking what the day, date or time is, is a quick and easy way to find out. Users can just dictate upcoming events to add to their diary, and set reminders, timers and more. The fact that replies are spoken is also reassuring for those living alone. Print out the top five commands they will need, as “What’s in my diary?” and “What’s happening today?” will not result in the same response!

Home care for those with memory loss

If you’re concerned about a parent or loved one with memory loss, regular home care visits can help both you and them. Regular visits from a familiar face, and following a specific care routine, can be very reassuring for anyone with any form of cognitive decline. Our caregivers also offer activities to help stimulate and engage mental skills such as memory, puzzle and problem solving, and stimulating conversational and social skills too.

For more details on our Calgary home care services, or to book your initial consultation:

539, 5940 Macleod Trail SWCalgary, AB