Is it still possible for one in the later stages of ALZ (5 or 6 maybe) to form new memories?


I have always had the understanding that it slowly progresses in one direction, and that new memories can't be formed. It seems that that is not the case with my mother.

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My mother-in-law is in a memory care unit, and can no longer carry on a conversation or answer basic questions with any meaning. She can still form grammatically correct sentences but wrong word choices: names of people, places, and things are mixed up. She has no idea what or if she's eaten.
However, she can remember the way people make her feel. She correctly recognizes some of the friendlier staff as such, saying things like, "She's very nice," and "Here he is! He is the really good, good, good, uh uh... captain" Conversely, she can point out the couple residents who are notoriously obnoxious, "There she is. She never has anything nice to say." And the odd ones, "That one is always dancing," (who is, when she likes the music).
These are people she sees daily but has only been around under 10 months!
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Reply to ccheno

Absolutely! we all make sense one way or another, I feel we all have a connection with each other because we understand what everybody is going through. My mom also confuses her condiments for side dishes N sometimes even paper towels, oh!! N her dentures, she wanted to eat them, yes,! I know it sounds gross but its true. She cant really hear that good, so that makes our talking difficult, I will say something like, "you wanna go outside," she'll answer, "no I'm not hungry," so now I just say 👌, I no longer try to correct her or repeat myself, because it becomes frustrating. My brother was here yesterday visiting and I overheard him say, "ok Ma whatever" he started repeating his question to her N finally caught on LOL
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Reply to Isabella55

Science does not have all the answers.

Just go with it no matter. What her reality is makes her happy. Disagreeing will frustrate her and she will become more closed up inside her mind.
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Reply to dkentz72

At those stages the patient is totally sedated, however, remember they can still hear, so be tender and kind with touch and massage and do not cry in front and please no last rites in her presence and no tube, love to you.
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Reply to normandy

Such an interesting subject! Memory-wise, my husband of nearly 34 years is all over the map. He will come up with things from his childhood, the street he lived on, his siblings and stories from that time. Yet when his children visit he does not remember that they were here that evening. And of course he asks the same questions over and over again all day. We are getting ready to move into an apartment in a couple of weeks and though I will take him over before the actual move and show him the grounds and the room where he will sleep, I will have someone keep him occupied on moving day. I have tried to avoid talking much about it because though I tried hard to find a place similar to our home, it just was not possible. But I plane to decorate with the same things and do what I can. There will be no yard, just a small patio but I will place some plants there for him to care for. He loves to feed birds, but the complex does not allow bird feeders at all due to them drawing rats, which has been a real concern in our home too. This will be a challenge in many ways. I know I have gotten "off the subject". Sorry!
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Reply to She1934

I think yes, to some degree depending on association of emotions attached to the memory. My mom seems to “remember” odd tidbits of new information but often connects the new memory to something else and creates either a happy association or sad one to it. It becomes the memory of the day or week or even month. As others mentioned, their loved ones randomly remember things. I know there are people at the memory care facility that “ remember” me. Some think I’m their old neighbor or daughter or whoever. They seem to associate old memories with bits and pieces of new experiences. All I can say is a smile seems to go a long way even when interacting or being around people who seem to be completely incoherent. I don’t think you can teach a lot of new information to a memory impaired person but I do think if you can combine as many of their senses as possible (especially anything that has motor skills or touch involved) into any new learning, some part of it sticks in their brain that isn’t yet diseased.
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Reply to Alzh101

Could be she has Lewy body and not Alzheimer.
Many people are misdiagnosed.
Perhaps you should read about LB and see if it may be the case for your
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Reply to HappySadCathy
Mahea98 Jul 23, 2018
I have wondered about that. I have done some reading. What would be the advantage of knowing that it's LB as opposed to ALZ?
to the best of my knowledge, my mother can not hold onto any new memories. nada nothing zero.

she started with some memory problems in about 2010. she is now almost 89, and somewhere at moderate+. still dresses and feeds herself. showers herself, but stopped washing her hair. memory about a minute, sometimes seconds. she knows family, she knows where her AL room is. dining room etc.
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Reply to wally003

Ok. Thank you!! Yes, we are working on that. I already have an eye mask for my Mom and her roommate's family is going to get her a set of ear buds. Thankfully the roommate had been very understanding so far and quickly turns the TV off. But she has dementia too. Really hoping it works out. She can't have a private room with the state paying the bill and we are in no position to pay for a private room. I haven't seen her this happy in a long while.
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Reply to Mahea98

If by forming new memories, you mean can people with moderately advanced dementia learn new things, then yes, I’d say. My mother learned to look at the memory box next to her door in the memory care, which has pictures of her gardening and her first name in large green letters, to know which is her room. I bought her a cheerful plush chicken wearing a pink hat and began putting it on her bed by her pillows, so that when she’d come into her room, she’d see it and recognize the place, her bed, or at least feel more comfortable, because Chickie seems familiar. It took a couple of months, but it works quite often now. (She doesn’t know she lives there.)

There is a fascinating book by Cameron J. Camp called Hiding the Stranger in the Mirror: a Detective’s Manual for Solving Problems Associated with Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders. That is, what we refer to as “behaviors.” The chapter titled “New Learning” describes a variety of ways in which people with dementia learn and can be taught (in order to solve behavior issues), including classical conditioning, operant conditioning (from behavioral therapy), and “spaced retrieval.” It sounds very complicated, but the book is really down to earth and easy to read, with lots of stories and lessons from real life. I have the ebook.

People with dementia can and do learn to associate bad (and presumably good) feelings with particular people and places, though they don’t do it consciously. I’ve worked very hard to have my mother associate good feelings with the place where she lives, mostly by taking her outdoors. She has always loved the outdoors and likes to explore nature. Many, many happy years of camping ... though she doesn’t consciously remember the camping. And she enjoys gardening, though she doesn’t remember doing it.
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Reply to Mooserix