Memory Problems & Forgetfulness Associated with Dementia

Did you know?

Forgetfulness can lead to missing doses or overdosing on medication. Pillboxes with the time of day and the day of the week on them as well as a written schedule can help people in the early stages of dementia with this problem.


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

Common Issues Related to Memory Problems

Many people with dementia – as well as their caregivers – become frustrated by their increasing forgetfulness as their memory worsens. While it may begin with the person simply forgetting where he placed his eyeglasses, it may eventually lead to him accusing his caregiver of stealing or hiding possessions.

Memory in Middle to Late Dementia

In the middle stages of dementia (severe cognitive decline), a person with dementia who has been having trouble remembering other people’s names may start to forget even his spouse or caregiver’s name. He 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. But 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

  • Use memory aids: In early stages, your loved one may benefit from memory aids, such as little signs 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: For instance, 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 so that they, too, do not become lost items.
  • 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.
  • 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 or small items that can be picked up easily – in addition, you might also try to only keep a small amount of cash available in the open.



Strategies for Coping with Memory Loss

Source: Self Help Magazine
Description: This article discusses common problems caregivers of people with dementia face and offers suggestions on how to handle them, including the importance of routines, reminders, and calendars, and letting your loved one make as many decisions as possible. The article also talks about the importance of gentle redirection, rather than confrontation, and why correcting your loved one's mistakes may not be the best approach in many situations.

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Caregiver Guide: Tips for Caregivers of People with Alzheimer's Disease

Source: National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Description: This brochure offers helpful advice on caring for your loved one with Alzheimer's. Topics covered include daily activities (bathing, eating, dressing), incontinence, identification bracelets, home safety, and driving.

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Tips for Memory Loss

Source: Alzheimer's Caregiver Support Online
Description: Offers tips for people with dementia or their caregivers to use organized by the severity of memory loss.

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Coping With Memory Loss

Source: Alzheimer's Society (United Kingdom)
Description: This sheet offers tips for coping with memory loss including suggestions for helping a loved one take in new information, using memory aids, and avoiding extra stress.

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Managing Communication and Behavioral Problems in People with AD

Source: National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Description: This resource list provides suggestions of websites, books, and other publications that can assist you in dealing with communication and behavior problems.

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