Helping Someone with Memory Loss
Diagnosing memory problems can be puzzling. In older adults, it’s easy to mistake
such problems as part of the everyday memory loss that some people experience as they
Memory problems, however, may be a sign of a more serious diagnosis, such as Alzheimer
disease or dementia.
Check with a healthcare provider if your loved one is:
Unable to remember familiar things or people
More and more forgetful or has trouble remembering recent events
Having trouble doing familiar things, such as cooking
Get disoriented driving or walking in places that were formerly very familiar
Your loved one’s healthcare provider will do a medical exam. This will include a look
at prescription and over-the-counter medicine used. It will also look at the person’s
diet, medical history, and overall health. A memory problem may be caused by:
If you’re caring for someone with memory problems, these tips may help. You may be
able to help the person keep his or her confidence, independence, and dignity for
as long as possible.
Be flexible, patient, and help the person try to remember what he or she can.
Make it easier for the person to remember new information. For instance, keep new
information simple and repeat it often. Break down new activities into small steps.
Provide verbal cues rather than ask questions. For example, say: “This is Jane, your
cousin, who has come to see you.” Don’t say: “This is Jane. Do you remember who she
Establish a regular routine. This will help the person feel more secure and make it
easier for him or her to remember what usually happens during the day. Too much variety
and stimulation can be confusing.
Learn what to expect. For example, managing irritation may be easier if you understand
your husband can’t remember how to unload the dishwasher because of his disease. It
is not because he doesn’t want to be helpful.
Seek help from family and friends.