Progressive memory loss due to diseases like Dementia can be difficult to cope with for both someone living with the disease and their carer. With over 40% of people over the age of 65 experiencing memory loss , they can often need help when it comes to support and guidance.
Many of the causes of memory loss are treatable if they are diagnosed early, however, if they are not diagnosed they may progress and make treatment more difficult . Research shows that there are many known factors that can cause memory loss, including the following:
The fear of memory loss is something that stops many people going to the doctors for a diagnosis, with 56% of people putting off seeking a dementia diagnosis . With the fear of getting dementia at an all time high one of the most talked about topics in memory loss studies is ‘can memory loss be prevented?’.
Some of the causes of memory loss that are listed above are definitely treatable, but are they preventable?
Studies show that memory loss can be prevented if you follow a couple of simple rules from a young age, to help keep your brain active and sharp.
A couple of the recommended ways to help improve your memory include going on regular walks, maintaining a healthy diet, engaging in activities that test your brain, staying social, getting a better night’s sleep, avoiding smoking and other forms of nicotine, dedicating time to relax, attending regular check-ups and using memory tests . These recommendations will not prevent memory loss alone, particularly if it is age-related, however they will help improve the way in which the brain works.
Sometimes people may notice that they are experiencing problems with their memory, however, these difficulties may not significantly affect the person’s everyday life and may not be severe enough to be considered Dementia – this is called Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI).
It is estimated that between 5-20% of people aged over 65 are living with MCI, and 10 out of every 100 will go on to develop Dementia each year .
Dementia is an umbrella term and describes the symptoms that occur when the brain is affected by certain diseases or conditions. There are many different types of dementia, however some are more common than others, including Alzheimer’s disease, Vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, Frontotemporal dementia and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, named after the doctor Alois Alzheimer, who first described it as a progressive physical disease that affects the brain.
Memory loss is considered one of the first signs of Dementia and in particular, Alzheimer’s disease. In the early stages of the disease, it may be easy to mistake memory loss or lapses in judgement for the normal forgetfulness of old age, however, it will soon become apparent that the problems are becoming more severe and persistent; this is often more apparent to family and friends than to the person themselves.
Although someone may be living with memory loss, they may be able to retain certain skills for much longer. This means that they might remember a surprising range of facts or experiences, especially memories from earlier on in their life. This is because a person’s emotional memory is affected much later on in Dementia and they will still be able to remember how they felt at a particular moment in time, even if they can’t remember the specific details about it.
The extent of memory loss for someone living with the Dementia may result in difficulties carrying out day-to-day activities, as it is often caused due to damage to the hippocampus, a part of the brain that plays a very important role in day-to-day memory .
If you think you – or someone close to you – may be experiencing symptoms of memory loss and think there is a possibility it could be Dementia rather than MCI, there are 10 early warning signs and symptoms you can look out for .
The most common sign of Dementia is memory loss, particularly when it comes to remembering newly learned information or conversations. This could mean that people lose their sense of direction and may not know where they are. Other things that may be forgotten include faces, dates, events, names, appointments, where things are stored and when to take medication.
Some people may notice changes in their ability to develop or follow plans, especially if it means working with numbers. This could mean they have difficulty remembering and following a favourite recipe or keeping track of monthly bills.
Another key early warning sign for Dementia is that people often find it hard to complete daily tasks. This could include driving to a familiar location, remembering the rules to a game or managing a budget at work.
People living with Dementia can often lose track of dates, seasons and the concept of time. This could mean they have difficulty understanding daily tasks and may forget where they are or how they got there.
Vision problems are a key sign of memory loss. People may have difficulty remembering how to read, determining colour and contrast and judging distance – which may cause problems when driving. They may lose their balance and other key motor skills, meaning they have the propensity to fall over more often and may require safe patient lifting aids such as the Mangar Camel.
Having trouble joining in with conversations is a major warning sign when it comes to memory loss. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and forget how to continue, possibly repeating themselves as they try.
Someone with Dementia may put things in unusual places and forget where they are, unable to retrace their steps to find them again.
Another early warning sign could be people experiencing changes in judgement and decision-making. For example, they could use poor judgement when dealing with money and could end up giving large amounts to sales people or canvassers.
A person living with dementia may want to remove themselves from their usual hobbies, social events or work projects. They may experience trouble keeping up with their favourite sports team or avoid being social because of the changes they are experiencing.
The personality of someone dealing with memory loss can change dramatically. They may become confused, fearful, depressed or anxious. The changes they experience could easily upset them while they are at home, work, with friends or in places where they are not familiar with their surroundings.
There are lots of different approaches to coping with memory loss and the feelings it can cause, such as frustration and a loss of confidence and self-esteem. Some of the techniques may require professional input from Occupational Therapists or Psychologists, however, there are lots of different things you can do to help aid your day-to-day life .
At times it will be hard for someone with Alzheimer’s to look after themselves, which is where you come in. You can help support them both emotionally and physically at home in some of the following ways:
If you notice any of the 10 warning signs in either yourself or someone you know it is advised that you schedule an appointment with your doctor so they can assess your needs. If you need additional support or information on coping with memory loss the NHS has a range of useful documents and contacts.
To find out how Mangar can help please contact us.