Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia often result in memory loss. These conditions can affect the recollection of previous memories as well as the formation of new memories. Many dementia patients feel frustrated or embarrassed when they struggle to remember special people and events, and loved ones may also feel hurt or discouraged. While there's no guaranteed treatment for dementia-related memory loss, you can help trigger and preserve memories with the simple tips below.
Encourage Story Sharing
Ask your loved one about favorite hobbies, foods or vacations and you may be surprised by how much they remember. Don't interrupt or share your own experiences while your loved one speaks, even if they seem stuck on a detail. Give them a chance to share their experiences.
You can do this by asking open-ended questions such as "What's one of your favorite recipes to make?" or "What happened during your favorite holidays?" This gives your loved one a chance to think about the situation and recall specific events or emotions.
Discuss Special Events
Some caretakers and family members hesitate to discuss previous or upcoming events because they fear dementia may block the memory. While it's true that this may happen, you should still continue mentioning events that matter to you as well as your loved one. Tell her about her wedding day, or share details of your baby shower or a promotion at work. And remember, your loved one may still want to attend future events, so extend an invitation when possible.
Keep things light when you discuss special events. Focus on happy memories rather than tragic situations, such as car accidents or cancer experiences. You may also want to avoid discussing stressful moments that occurred on special days, such as a bridesmaid who yelled at a fellow wedding guest or a hotel that messed up the reservation for your family vacation.
Listen to Music
Music evokes powerful emotions from joy and excitement to sadness. Music also helps reduce anxiety and connect with others. Because of this, many dementia patients benefit from singing or listening to music.
Here at Brightview, we offer Mind & Music, a therapeutic program that incorporates music into the daily lives of our residents with dementia. Upbeat melodies as well as soothing songs are streamed through crisp, clear Sonos sound systems. This helps reduce background noise, creating a pleasant environment for community members.
If you decide to harness the healing ability of music, set your loved one up for success by limiting background noise. Shut the door and windows and turn off the television or other electronic devices. Encourage your loved one to dance and sing along with the music, and take note of songs that trigger memories or result in a calm or happy mood.
Make a Memory Box
Some dementia patients struggle to recall special times but can remember events when they see mementos. A memory box can help a loved one conjure up memories of vacations, wedding ceremonies or achievements, such as a college graduation.
Here are some things you can include in a memory box:
- Souvenirs from family trips
- Programs from musicals or plays
- Tickets from movies or theme parks
- Guest books from weddings or baby showers
- Jewelry from anniversaries or other special occasions
- Cards and letters
Don't get discouraged if you don't see immediate results with a memory box. Over time, your loved one may begin to recall special moments.
Create a Scrapbook
Arrange photos, awards and short letters in a scrapbook for your loved one to help them learn more about their life. Organize the pages by year or event, such as a section for 2017 or a few pages dedicated to an anniversary party. This helps your loved one understand how events progressed rather than simply knowing that they happened.
You can also create a scrapbook that features everyday things and people your loved one sees regularly, such as:
- Brightview staff
- Family members
- Medical providers
- Favorite meals
- Favorite places, such as a garden or park
- Favorite CDs or movies
A scrapbook may help reduce the frustration associated with forgetting familiar faces and favorite things.
At Brightview Senior Living, we understand the challenges of caring for a loved one with dementia sometimes outweigh the joys. We offer around-the-clock care for residents with Alzheimer's disease and other memory-impairing conditions at our safe, vibrant memory care community. Our skilled team provides compassionate care so you focus on enjoying time with your loved one rather than handling tasks, such as medication administration, bathing and physical therapy.