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?
* 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.
Whoops, sorry Jeanne.
So, yes, there are some good things about memory loss.
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.
My Mom's memory is always gone.
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.
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.
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.
Unfortunately, except for taking that class, again, I haven't come up with more things to do to help her. When she's feeling less insecure about her memory, her quality of life is better. She is more cheerful, does more activities and chores, just generally in a better state of mind. When she is feeling especially bad about her memory, she sits and stews - sometimes for days on-end.
Memory trouble is not the most significant problem in Lewy Body Dementia. Tests revealed what I suspected -- the part of the process that was damaged for my husband was taking in the data. He had a hard time "attending." So if it was important for him to remember something I'd try to help him take it in. I'd be sure I had his attention. I would tell him and then also write it down. Sometimes he wrote it down. (Neither of us could read what he wrote, but the act of writing seemed to help him remember it.) We would talk about it briefly. Even all those things didn't always work.
My mother is kept active in the nursing home. I am not sure if it does her memory any good, but it does enhance her quality of life. When she is fretful that her memory is bad I acknowledge that but reassure her. "I know. It is a bummer, isn't it? But you are in a very good place with lots of people who remember for you. Even if you forget that it is dinner time, someone will always come and get you to eat. And you always enjoy the food, even if you don't remember eating it." We both laugh at that.
freqflyer, my mom does kind of go up-and-down, too. In my Mom's case, she sometimes gets so anxious about remembering things that she just can't remember anything, at all, and I guess that is a problem for some people with memory loss - that anxiety about forgetting can make it worse.
It is wonderful that this seems to help your Mom. Dementias are progressive diseases and do not get better, only a slow descent. Alzheimer's and vascular dementia are very different. Early mild in VD is very different from late middle stage Alzheimer's. There is no chance of improvement with my Mom. These diseases are so cruel.