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Common Memory Issues Related to Dementia and Coping Strategies for Caregivers

Last Updated: August 30, 2018

Many people with dementia, as well as their caregivers, become frustrated by the increasing forgetfulness associated with the progression of the disease, as well as greater memory issues. Unfortunately, throughout the stages of dementia, persons with dementia and their caregivers have to learn to cope with problems associated with memory.

 Watch a short video that describes typical memory loss in dementia (4 minutes 20 seconds long).

 

Common Issues Related to Memory Problems

While dementia may begin with the person simply forgetting where he / she placed his / her eyeglasses, it may eventually lead to accusations that the caregiver is stealing and / or hiding possessions. While it can be hard for caregivers not to take these types of allegations personally, know that these behaviors are not intentional. Rather, the person with dementia is simply confused and trying to find a logical explanation and solution for something that is troubling him / her.

 

Memory in Middle to Late Dementia

In the middle stages of dementia (severe cognitive decline), a person with dementia who has had trouble remembering other people’s names may start to forget even his / her spouse or caregiver’s name. He / she may not be able to sustain a thought long enough to complete a task. Recent events are mostly forgotten at this stage. When people cannot remember what happened earlier, their brains may start to fill in the gaps with stories that seem logical to them, which is called confabulation. However, people with dementia may remember some things from the distant past, especially emotional events, and may get “caught up” in these events, trying to resolve them. They may still recognize what is and is not familiar, but eventually, in late dementia, even these remnants of memory are usually lost.

 

Suggestions for Caregivers

While memory issues can be extremely frustrating for both persons inflicted with dementia and their caregivers, the following suggestions can help with these problems.

Use Memory Aids
In the early stages of dementia, your loved one may benefit from memory aids to help him / her remember things. Examples of memory aids include little signs, post-it notes and step-by-step instructions. Place labels with large block letters on the outside of doors, cabinets, and drawers explaining what is inside. Words alone may be confusing, so also include a picture showing the contents of the cabinet or drawer.

Keep Spare Copies of All Important Items and Information
Have extra copies of keys, eyeglasses, medications, prescriptions, and other items when at all possible. This way, when your loved one can’t find a particular item, you can replace it until it turns up again. These spares should be stored away in a secure or locked location where your loved one won’t find (and possibly lose) them.

Know Where Your Loved One Might Misplace Items
Many caregivers find that their loved ones will continue to place items in “hiding places” that they used to use earlier in life, such as underneath mattresses, in dresser drawers, or inside jars. Be sure to check in these locations first if something is missing!

Limit the Possibility for Items Becoming Lost
A bit of foresight can prevent important or expensive items from becoming misplaced or lost. Consider locking away expensive jewelry, sentimental photos, or small items that can be picked up easily and lost. In addition, you might want to keep only a small amount of cash out in the open.