How dementia affects short and long-term memory loss

People with dementia will often experience memory loss, which can affect their day-to-day life. We understand that this can be distressing for both the person with the diagnosis as well as their family and friends.

There are steps you can take to help a person manage dementia and any memory loss they're experiencing, so they can remain confident, sociable and content.

What day-to-day activities can be affected by memory loss?

Just like other symptoms of dementia, memory loss can affect people with dementia differently. A person can start to forget recent events, activities and faces. They may find it difficult to communicate and carry out day-to-day tasks, while it can also affect their mood and judgement.

Some common experiences as a result of memory loss include:

  • Forgetting recent discussions and events
  • Forgetting important dates, such as appointments and visits
  • Forgetting names of people and household objects
  • Struggling to pinpoint the right word(s)
  • Misplacing items, such as their glasses or purse
  • Forgetting when to take medication
  • Getting lost or disorientated in familiar surroundings
  • Having difficulty recognising faces
  • Struggling with everyday tasks such as getting dressed
  • Finding it difficult to follow conversations or TV programmes
  • Losing the thread of what they’re saying during a conversation

Typically, people with dementia are more likely to remember long-term memories including:

  • Thing that happened a long time ago, when they were a teenager or young adult
  • Things they've done many times, like a journey to school or work
  • Things they've repeatedly rehearsed, such as dance steps or a musical instrument
  • Events and dates they have a strong emotional tie to, such as an anniversary or national holiday

Supporting someone with memory loss related to dementia

Memory loss can leave a person feeling frustrated, worried, embarrassed and less confident in their abilities. This can cause them to withdraw and isolate themselves, but there are ways you can help to support someone with memory loss.

Recent or upcoming events

If someone can’t remember something, such as a past conversation or visit you had, don’t try and force them to remember, as this can make them feel embarrassed and frustrated. For upcoming events, such as meal times or even when people are visiting, you can leave reminders on sticky notes in places around the house.

Setting a regular daily routine can also make it easier for them to remember what's going to be happening or what happens at certain times during the day.

Words, names or faces

If a person is finding it difficult to find the correct word, give them time, but don’t leave it too long as this can cause embarrassment. You can prompt them, but don’t rush the person. Making sure their environment is free from too much distraction, such as loud televisions and conversations, can also help.

Getting good quality sleep can also make a difference, as it can be harder to remember things when you're tired. While it may seem unusual at first, you may also want to start introducing yourself and others to them to serve as a reminder.

Looking at memory books or photo albums together can also be a good way of helping them to remember people as they are now.

Day-to-day tasks

When a day-to-day activity like brushing their teeth or getting dressed starts to become tricky, support them by breaking the task down into simple steps. Put the items they need for the task in a labelled, easily accessible area and set up easy-to-read instructions on how to do the task.

Also, leave notes to remind them about easily misplaced items like glasses and shoes. Try to keep items in the same place too, where they're easy to see and reach.

Our dementia care services

At Priory, we aim to support people with their concentration, thinking and communication, while helping them with memories that are important to them. Our aim is to improve the quality of life for everyone we support, so that they can feel confident, secure and positive.

Contact us to make an enquiry or for more information

If you'd like to find out more about our dementia care homes, which offer long-term stays and respite services, please make an enquiry online or call us today.

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