Understanding Memory Loss
Sometimes, beyond the normal aging process, memory loss occurs as a result of brain disease or injury. Brain diseases like Alzheimer’s can cause increased memory loss. Strokes are another common cause.
After a lifetime of independence, knowledge, confidence, and self-worth, an individual can find that memory loss unexpectedly brings confusion, emotional disturbances, and personality and behavior changes.
Short-Term Memory, Daily Routines, and Intellectual Skills Are Impacted
Each day the ability to locate valuables, recognize family and friends, or be in control of feelings may decrease. Repetitive thoughts and behaviors can be difficult to manage. Loss of function often results in isolation and the loss of independence. Common misconceptions about memory loss may bring fear and anxiety to the suffering individual as well as to loved ones.
Memory Loss Requires Adjustment in Patterns of Living
Family members, friends, associates, and other caregivers must adjust to meet the needs of the person affected. Family patterns of living must often be altered to provide constant and consistent care. Individuals with irreversible and progressive illness will eventually be incapable of caring for their basic needs.
Ways to Help
- Seek medical evaluation and information at the earliest signs. Reassure those with memory loss during moments of anxiety or frustration.
- Respond to repeated questions with consistent information. Welcome family members and visitors with proper names, relationships, or titles. Help the individual to resolve confusing thoughts.
- A quiet, safe, and organized space will help the individual remain calm. Store medications and dangerous objects out of reach. Eliminate or secure items that are potentially unsafe.
- Give structure to daily living by using written lists or pictures to help with completion of routine tasks. Consider labeling items.
- Provide a wholesome and stimulating daily schedule that might include music, recorded inspirational talks, personal conversation, exercise, games, arts, crafts, and outings.
- When behavior is inappropriate, do not threaten, challenge, or confront the individual but rather redirect the person’s attention to other objects of importance or beauty.
- Speak softly with concern for what has aroused the improper behavior. Find what is lost, discover what was forgotten, resolve the dispute, and respond to any distrust.
- Encourage physical exercise, church attendance, and positive participation in social activities to decrease fear of going places and being with other people. Provide appropriate opportunities for the individual to give service or help others. Find a balance between caring and being cared for.
- Build spirituality; remember that difficult behavior is the result of a disease of the brain, not a deficiency of the spirit. Read the scriptures to the person and utilize uplifting music. Pray together, taking turns to seek blessings of comfort. Seek the companionship and presence of the Holy Ghost for peaceful reassurance of Heavenly Father’s love. Attend the temple where possible, and when appropriate seek a priesthood blessing.
- Talk about basic gospel principles. For example, remind individuals that they are a child of a loving Heavenly Father and He will never forget their name.
- Use family pictures of outings, activities, and holidays to remember life’s good experiences. Pictures can also assist in recalling names of family members.
- Help the individual engage in activities that promote physical movement or intellectual activity. Simple tasks can restore confidence.