While early stages of dementia account for short-term memory loss, over time, a person with dementia will experience long-term memory loss too.
While early stages of dementia account for short-term memory loss, over time, a person with dementia will experience long-term memory loss too. Stockbyte

7 ways to assist those suffering from dementia

HOW does dementia affect long-term memory? And what can you do to assist a loved one suffering from late-stage dementia?

Unlike short-term memories from the preceding day or two, long-term memories are generally long-lasting, and cover anything from people's earliest memories as children, through to their decades of life experience. 

There are three main types of long-term memories: procedural memory, episodic memory and semantic memory.

While early stages of dementia account for short-term memory loss, over time, a person with dementia will experience long-term memory loss too. 

So, for example, they could experience difficulties with finding the right words to use as they speak, or their memories of family members or particular events may diminish or disappear altogether.

Significant memory loss can also make procedural memories fade, which is why people with dementia often find it difficult to do the tasks that they used to be able to do automatically. 

This can affect a person's ability to complete Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) - in other words, common day-to-day tasks, such as brushing their teeth, showering or getting dressed.  

These ADLs may only be done part way or not at all, so, for example, a person with late-stage dementia could overlook their personal hygiene, wearing dirty clothes and forgetting to wash.

Memory loss can also affect judgement, so a person with dementia may not make the connection with it being cold outdoors and needing to wear long trousers or a coat. 

Helpful ways to assist those with long-term memory loss

If a loved one is experiencing long-term memory loss, here's 7 things you can do to help them:

  1. Introduce yourself by name each time you see them, to help put them at ease.
  2. Be patient, give them time and where necessary, prompts, to help them remember people, activities or events.
  3. Gently offer clear, step-by-step directions to help them complete ADLs like brushing their teeth or taking a bath.
  4. Maintain a routine so that they perform their ADLs at the same time each day - and use this routine to give their day purpose with small things to accomplish.
  5. Put up photographs of their family and friends where they live - and include captions, explaining who they are and where the photo was taken.
  6. Show them video footage of any moments in their life that have been recorded.
  7. Support them positively to lead full and happy lives, rather that reminding them regularly about their memory loss.

To read more on this topic, visit our blog page at www.alzheimersonline.org or call for advice 1800 639 331.


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