Short term memory loss is apparent to and affects those close to the person starting on that horrible voyage called dementia. It is one of the early signs in the progression of dementia. You may become aware of it by asking the person what happened in their day and find they are unable to tell you. They may think it is time to eat just minutes after they have already eaten. They do not remember a conversation that you have had with them just moments before. They become upset with you for withholding information that has recently been given to them.

Short term memory loss is very upsetting when you observe it. Imagine how devastating it must be to the person actually experiencing it. It makes them frustrated and angry at what they realize they are losing. This anger and frustration can be directed at you, the person they are closest to.

How can you deal with short term memory loss and provide the help that is needed? Perhaps a calendar listing the appointments they need to be aware of and a reminder to look at that calendar until it becomes an integral part of their daily functions. You could work together on keeping a journal recording calls or visitors that they have received. You can also record meals they have had and times they had them. A strict schedule of meal times seems to help and provides structure to their day. Don’t talk about short comings. Observe and make adjustments like turning off the stove, closing the refrigerator, flushing the toilet, and seeing that medications are taken.

During this time their long-term memory may well be intact. You will find that they may tell you stories over and over again. Know that they do not remember that you have heard these stories numerous times. Also know that these memories are all that they have to talk about since they do not remember what happened this week, today, or 30 minutes prior to the telling. Listen. Perhaps make notes of these conversations. You will want to remember them later when the talking ends. Long term memory will fade along with the frustration since they will no longer be aware of their losses. The time will come when they may need reminding to use the toilet, brush their teeth, and bathe. They will be unable to fix their own meals or make decisions as to what those meals will be.

The most difficult thing for those of us close to someone with dementia is that we lose the person that we know and love long before we actually lose them. Understand that mourning their loss begins long before we mourn their death.

LaVona Tomberlin & Diane Delaney
Golden Placement