Helping Mom with her memory.

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My mom has mild vascular dementia and is willing and able to do things to help her memory. I want to help her and I am starting this discussion for others where we can share what works and what doesn't.

First of all, different things work for different people.

Besides some of the little things I encourage and help her to do, I got her enrolled in a group session memory program where there are many different activities. It meets for two hours, once a week, and the activities are never the same, but I think the same people generally show up. Mom never liked going. She hardly ever remembered what they did. She never understood the point of the session. In our area, this is a well-regarded program that the doctors highly recommend. However, I don't think she got anything out of it and I was concerned that maybe I was just fooling myself that she was capable of doing activities that had any complexity, at all.

By chance, there was a class on improving one's memory. It was a set fee. It met for three weeks, two hours per week, included a book, and was a combination of instruction, of discussion of personal memory issues, and exercises. At the end of the three weeks, Mom remembered the names of all 14 people (included the two instructors), could give details on each person, remembered exercises, and generally seemed to get something out of it.

I kind of think I've realized why the second was helpful and the first wasn't. Here are some factors that I think are important for her about the second class:
* It was specific. Everything they did had a reason.
* She understood it. Everything they did was explained to them.
* She was with her peers. Everyone was open about their problems and fears regarding memory. It was a "safe place" to discuss any memory issue a person wanted to discuss.
* The mood was carefully set. The instructors actually told them ahead that they would try and fail with some memory techniques and to just try other techniques - also, to bring successes AND failures to class to discuss. So, the element of failure was introduced, right away, so that everyone would expect it and be less afraid of it.

Mom and I had her attend this second class by accident, not necessarily thinking it was different but just trying a different group so this was by accident that we found something that worked for her.

What kinds of things are some of you finding do and don't work and why?

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Thanks for sharing that, geo23.
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I read above that someone's medication seemed to be causing memory issues. From my mom's memory class, here are things they do know cause memory issues:
* Some medications. All type of medications can cause this problem. Also, I had taken Mom to the incontinence clinic and they said the drugs they could offer would potentially negatively affect her memory and they don't suggest them if not necessary.
* UTIs. Urinary Tract Infections are a major cause of memory loss. Unfortunately, when you're young, you know you have them. As you get older, you can easily have one without knowing it and it's affecting your memory (among other things).
* Lack of concentration, poor vision, poor hearing. Any of these things causes us to miss receiving the information so, of course, we can't remember it. In the case of lack of concentration, that sometimes comes because we get so used to doing things without concentrating that it's hard to make a habit of paying attention to the little things we've done for so long. Other times, it can be related to health. For example, hyper thyroid issues can cause anxiety and a lack of concentration.
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Hmmm, L is on Lexapro. I sure don't know what the age statement meant in terms of years. Maybe it is the drug interaction as well. Mom is on a long list of them these days because of the recurrent UTI's of last year. Hopefully some of those will start going away soon, as well. She sees the urogynecologist in October.

Whoops, sorry Jeanne.
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LOL, Glad, I take lexapro. The doctor didn't tell me it was good for old folks. She claimed it was least likely to interact with other meds I take. hmmmm ...
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Jeanne, you and sisters are doing a great job. Maybe you will post a few lessons. And I easily identify with the memory loss sometimes being a good thing. My Mom has been on Prozac for probably 15 or 20 years because of depression for a very long time. But now, her doc wants to wean her off of it because she keeps losing weight, 30 pounds is three years. She is probably at her healthiest weight in 30 years or so. But it has been unintentional weight loss. She just is not eating as much and it is an effort, sometimes trouble swallowing. Mom's doc said Prozac can have a anorexic effect, the reason for stopping it. She is now at half the dosage she was two weeks ago. Next week we will drop it half way again. I will admit it makes me a bit nervous. But she is not that depressed person she was for much of her life, she has forgotten so much of the unhappiness, which is a very good thing. Now she seems happy most of the time though seems more tired since the decrease. If need be we will change her to Lexapro which is better suited to these elderly from what the doc says.

So, yes, there are some good things about memory loss.
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Glad, Mom is 94 yo, has dementia, and is not a candidate for surgery. She is wheelchair bound. Except for pain getting into and out of the wheelchair, she is content. She can't maneuver the chair herself, but staff or visiting family push her where she needs/wants to go. My sisters and I were laughing the other day that memory loss can have some advantages. She apparently has forgotten that she isn't a very social person, and she goes happily to every bingo, entertainment, and craft event offered.

We are not in the mode of trying to improve her memory or her mobility or anything else but her contentment. We reassure her that her memory loss won't cause her harm and that she is in a safe, caring place.

Saturday we have arranged for her to attend her older sister's birthday celebration. She will get to see many out-of-state relatives there. She will have transportation in her wheelchair and we are doing our best to avoid bathroom issues. She'll only stay about two hours. Her life is not over. Our goal is to squeeze some pleasure out of what is left.
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Jeanne, then did your Mom have surgery to repair or replace the hip? I know the anesthesia would be very hard on her brain, and post op probably would not be able to recover cognition that she had before. I am hoping my Mom doesn't break a hip, that, I think would be the end, become bedridden, etc...

My Mom's memory is always gone.
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Blannie, your mother's memory loss sounds a lot like my mother's! It comes and goes and what she remembers and what she forgets doesn't seem to fit a pattern.

We recently had an x-ray of my mother's broken hip. OMG! I had to fight crying when I saw the results. There is no connection between the leg bone and the hip socket. It is called avascular necrosis. We all immediately accepted that she'll never stand again and that therapy would be useless. I think that many aspects of dementia are similar. If a function is gone, it is gone, and no amount of "therapy" is going to restore it. We can learn to make the loss less painful for us and for our loved one, to work around it, to compensate, to remove barriers. I certainly don't think that what we do as caregivers doesn't matter! There are just limits to the level of improvement we can expect.
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Recently I noticed my Dad seems to be thinking a bit clearer since he was taken off of one of his blood pressure medicines. I also noticed whenever I reduce my own dosage of my own blood pressure meds I am not as foggy.

I really believe we are being over medicated. I bet there are a lot of seniors out there that are taking something they don't really need. Wouldn't the quality of life be much better than trying to extend life???

I know if I had to choose, I would rather cut my life short by a year or two or three, and have *side-effect free* living which would make me feel so much better.
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My mom doesn't have dementia, but does have pretty severe short-term memory loss. But she can still do crossword puzzles and word find books and she loves them. And she still reads the newspapers and reads novels. I haven't found anything to improve her memory.

I'm always trying different "experiments" to see if it helps her remember - like repeating something to her every 30 seconds about 10X or writing it down for her and asking her where the list is. None of it seems to help much. I have found that her memory is different on different days. One day she can't remember someone from the past and the next time I mention it, she's got a clear memory of them and will add details that lets me know she's not just repeating what I said. So it's still a total mystery to me how it works. She'll forget very important things, but remember little piddly things. Go figure!

I'm very open with my mom about her memory loss, stressing she can't help it and in her case, I think it's probably from the medications she's on. She knows her memory sucks but will still tell me, 'Oh I'll remember that', when it's clear she'll forget it in two minutes. So sometimes she can't remember that she can't remember.

This week I'm letting her make her own breakfast but she's called me twice at 6:30 AM to tell me not to come over to make her breakfast. So much for sleeping in! :)

It's a difficult thing for both of us, but we're doing OK so far.
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