How To Care for Someone with Memory Loss

Thursday 8 April 2021
Memory loss

Table of Contents


I. The Impact of Memory Disorders

II. Helping with Everyday Tasks

III. Eating & Drinking

IV. Keeping the House Tidy

V. Getting Lost Outside

VI. Medication Routines


The Impact of Memory Disorders

Experiencing Alzheimer’s or other dementia-related disorders can be distressing for the affected person and their loved ones. If you have Alzheimer’s, the brain undergoes complex changes that lead to cell damage. This is not a normal part of aging, but it is most common in people over 65. As nerve connections deteriorate in the brain, symptoms will become more severe. Common symptoms of Alzheimer’s include:

  • Loss of spontaneity and sense of initiative
  • Wandering and getting lost
  • Increased anxiety or aggression
  • Losing or misplacing common items
  • Repeating questions
  • Mood and personality changes

keys in a door

The above symptoms range from mild to moderate Alzheimer’s, but severe symptoms can take a toll on a person’s caretaker. If you are in the latter stages of Alzheimer’s, normal bodily functions may also be disrupted. This time may be very difficult for caregivers because they are fully reliant on other people's care. These severe symptoms may include:

  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Skin infections
  • Inability to communicate
  • Seizures
  • Weight loss
  • Increased sleeping

Because there is no cure for Alzheimer's, medications like brand name and generic Namenda (memantine) and Aricept (donepezil) may be used. Along with medications, it is essential to care for a person with a memory disorder properly. Read on to learn some tips. [1] 

Helping with Everyday Tasks

If your loved one is experiencing the early stages of dementia, you may notice that they are having increasing difficulty with everyday tasks. This is usually not too big of a deal at first, but many emotions often accompany the brain's changes. Those with dementia often experience increased levels of stress, anxiety, and fear. If they cannot perform their normal tasks, they may become more agitated than normal. 

It is important to remember how disorienting it must feel when you cannot remember your house's location or the way to the grocery store. Remembering this can help you understand the feelings of your patient or loved one. You may need to assist the person with simple everyday tasks, including:

  • Gardening
  • Setting the table
  • Shopping
  • Taking the dog for a walk

To make these activities easier, you can make some memory aids to remind them where things are. You can put labels and signs on cupboards, drawers, and doors to help them remember what goes inside them. [2]

Eating & Drinking

When people with memory loss begin to forget their everyday activities, they may begin to neglect their dietary needs. They may not drink enough water or eat the proper amount of food. If they continually do this, they become more at risk for headaches, constipation, and urinary tract infections. Chronic dehydration can also make confusion symptoms worse.

a plate of food with a fork next to it

If you live with someone with a memory loss disorder, you may want to monitor their food intake to make sure they are receiving balanced meals. Many people with Alzheimer's may not recognize the foods they once loved and forget certain foods. There are several things you can do to make mealtimes less stressful for the patient and the caregiver. You may want to:

  • Offer food you know they like in small portions
  • Provide finger foods if they struggle with cutlery
  • Offer drinks in cups that are easy to hold
  • Set aside enough time for meals [2] 

Keeping the House Tidy

If you are caring for a person with a memory disorder, you may want to help them simplify their living conditions. Many Alzheimer's patients often lose items and misplace important objects like glasses or keys. They may also leave some items in unusual places, like putting the remote in the refrigerator. If the person forgets where they placed items, their delusion and agitation may increase. It is also important to believe what the dementia patient is saying, even if it does not make sense. Dismissing what the person is saying will increase dementia symptoms and confusion.

To help prevent patients from losing items, you may want to leave photos on cupboards or drawers to let them know what goes inside them. Keeping the house tidy and clean can also help people easily access their items. If a house is full of clutter, this can increase lost items and confusion. It may also help to put a big desk calendar on the kitchen table or fridge to help patients keep track of the day and important doctor's appointments. [3]

Getting Lost Outside

In advanced stages of Alzheimer's, patients may put themselves in danger by wandering outside their homes. They may want to leave the house for several reasons. They may want to run errands or boost their sense of independence, but they may get confused and set off somewhere and forget where they are going. This can be especially dangerous if this occurs while a person is driving.  

Having a mobile phone can be incredibly helpful for a person with a memory disorder. If they carry a mobile phone, their friends or family can locate the person through location apps. This makes it easier to find someone if they get lost. If people with memory disorders do leave the house, make sure they have proper identification on them. Many people may forget their wallets if they leave the house, so a medical identification bracelet can help. [3]

a person wearing a medical ID bracelet

Medication Routines

Remembering medical treatment plans may become difficult for someone with a memory loss disorder. Medications for Alzheimer's like Namenda and Aricept can help lessen the severity of memory loss symptoms. Along with medications that slow brain damage progression, Alzheimer's patients may also take sleep aids, anxiety medications, and antidepressants.

If you are caring for someone with memory loss, you may want to coordinate with care providers, so you are informed about the correct dosages of prescriptions. If you accompany the person to medical appointments, you can write down any important details and ask the doctor about any possible drug interactions.

If you are worried about your loved one or patient taking the medications, you can buy a pill organizer and daily list that ensure when the medication is taken. You may also want to develop a routine that is easy for the person to remember. Sticky notes or a calendar may also assist in their treatment plan. [4] 

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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