Managing memory loss

My wife’s memory loss is getting worse. Is there anything I can do?

Understanding a little about the type of dementia your wife has will help to support her with day to day living with memory loss and maintain her emotional well-being. Reliable sources for finding out more about dementia are your local carers’ groups, the library (all libraries now stock books about dementia and books for people with dementia) and the NHS Choices website.

Once you understand about the type of dementia your wife has you can try out some strategies to support her:

  • Labelling cupboard doors with written labels or pictures can help in areas like the kitchen. Coloured stickers can help with on and off switches.
  • A diary that you can both check daily can help with appointments and socialising (a large desk diary is usually the best type).
  • Putting medication in daily trays or in a special container, such as a Dosette box, to help remember to take them on the right day and at the right time. This can encourage independence when taking tablets and help to prevent mistakes.
  • Laying out clean clothes each evening and removing the ones that need washing can help with dignity and cleanliness.

Try not to ask her too many questions, as your wife can feel overwhelmed. Instead make statements like, ‘it is time for a cup of tea I am going to put the kettle on’ or, ‘I have turned the shower on for you’. Try not to judge – sometimes it takes a few moments to gather your thoughts when you have memory loss, and you can easily be left behind if too much information is given at once – keep things simple, speak slowly and clearly.

Try and keep your wife as active as possible with plenty of exercise and stimulation. You can do things together like:

  • Sharing an interesting story in the newspaper – read them out to each other.
  • Play number and word games like dominos, cards, crosswords and jigsaw puzzles. If these are too difficult, use pictures or photographs to share stories from the past – she will be able to remember a lot of detail about her earlier life so write some of the details down so they can be shared with others. Use prompts like ‘tell me the story when you …’
  • If following TV is getting difficult try pre-recording some of your favourite programmes or buying some DVDs. Choose things that are not too complicated or too long.
  • Music can be calming and enjoyable as it does not involve too much information – you could put a play list of favourite music together. Some people find wearing head phones helps them concentrate and relax.