Hello again, this week I will be explaining a little about memory and how it can be affected by dementia. The person living with dementia may be able to remember much about their own history and memory for events and life experiences but often short term memory (STM) is poor.
STM is responsible for temporarily storing information to allow people to perform tasks which include comprehending what is going on in the present, being able to reason and learn new things. That is why a person with dementia may repeat themselves within a very short space of time or forget what they were doing or saying (this can be as little as 12 seconds).
As you may know this can be very frustrating and the more the person feels stressed with this, the harder recalling the information becomes. Help them to relax with gentle touch, eye contact, be on their level and show them that you are interested.
Whilst at times this can be very hard, be aware that, more often than not, the person has something to say so please do not brush them aside. If someone is getting a little upset, then comfort them and think about creative ways of communicating with them in order to try and understand what they are trying to convey.
Sometimes people may be in pain or need to go to the toilet but are unable to communicate this and they may be disorientated, so bear these things in mind. Remember all of your senses may be able to help; sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste, we communicate in so many ways, and not just the words that we speak.
Day to day routines can be helped by using Post it notes in prominent places such as fridge doors and bathroom mirrors, break tasks into small chunks and encourage your loved one to concentrate on one thing at a time. Have one place for keeping keys, glasses and money and where possible both keep a diary or notebook to write things down.
Make life less stressful by setting up Direct Debits with your bank to pay regular bills. Try and involve your family and friends as much as possible. Keeping physically and socially active can have a great effect on memory and most areas have some community services which offer stimulating activities, local libraries may be a good place to start.
Try and avoid becoming isolated, don’t give up on the enjoyable things you have done together, there may still be ways to participate whether it is singing, dancing, art groups, seeing friends at the local pub. There may also be a Forget me not group, Dementia café or Dementia Friends group in your area.
Bye Bye for now, if you have anything you would like me to discuss you can contact me firstname.lastname@example.org
by Jane Mullins
Jane Mullins (RGN, Bn, PGcASR) is a dementia nurse consultant. She has worked on the Memory Teams of Bath and Cardiff, managed a Nursing Home and cared for older people in many hospital settings. Her PhD; A Suitcase Full of Memories explores holiday reminiscence activities for people with dementia and their partners.
She is the creator of DUETcare, Dignity, Understanding and Empathy Training, specialising in training in Dementia and Care of the Older Person. She is involved in a number of creative projects including playfulness and the use of music and playlists for people living with dementia and their partners and families.
This column is here to help you understand what is happening and how the dementia may affect your loved one and offers tips and suggestions to help you. This column is not intended to replace your GP or Specialist Doctor, it is to give a guide to explain what may be happening to your loved one living with dementia and how you may be able to help through adopting interesting and helpful approaches.
Dementia affects people individually and different stages will come with different issues, therefore, the advice here is general and I would always recommend speaking with your doctor.