Dementia Basics

“Memory Matters” for ALL Ages  LINK TO PROGRAM

One of the benefits of early diagnosis is that it gives families the ability to plan for the future. It is not uncommon to hear frequent comments from families that it might be just normal aging. Often the person is still very engaged and social but, when it comes to details, there are some differences noted. Is it because the person is older or is something else going on?

Something to think about:
1. Many times those with milder dementia can cover well. Perhaps the person withdrew from some of the more challenging activities recently but did not explain why. Often they use lists and other strategies which is not a bad thing.  It is harder to notice the subtle changes if you are not spending time with them 24/7 for more than a few days. It is often helpful to take a loved one away for few days so you are away from a familiar environment and notice if there are changes or you need to provide more cues.

2. Sometimes families notice repeated questions and or there is a feeling that any difficulties handling things as usual are just part of normal aging. Maybe they are or perhaps it might be time to take a closer look. Sometimes the person with memory problems does not always word finding difficulties. Changes in behavior are often the only changes that are noted.  Perhaps there is anxiety, worry or difficulty processing more of the details of their daily routine which require executive functioning. Maybe that is what you are seeing.

3. As there is a progression in a person’s dementia, a person’s ability to make good decisions may be compromised. A complete evaluation by a physician would be a good place to start. There are many reversible causes of memory loss and a further assessment might be very helpful. Perhaps there is another cause for the cognitive problems.

4. In more than a few instances I have evaluated patients where the families did not realize there was something going on with their family member’s memory previously. Then a hospitalization, a sudden illness, surgery or anesthesia, a recent move or major loss brings things to a whole other level.

Tips to consider:
1. When there are changes, it is important to look at more than what a person cannot do. Ask for a referral to a speech-language pathologist since they can help identify the person’s strengths. From there appropriate strategies to help with some of the memory glitches can be developed along with family and caregiver education for communication as well as safety.

2. Don’t forget that if there is a hearing or vision problem, strategies can be helpful. If you do not hear or see something correctly, it may look like a memory problem and further assessments can help establish what is happening and appropriate recommendations made.

3. Learn their story so you have knowledge of what they enjoyed. That way you can focus on learning how to modify activities at a level they can still participate. Someone may have read novels previously but cannot remember what they read. Short stories may be a better choice and, in some case, larger print may be helpful.

4. An excellent resource is the Alzheimer’s Association and these blogs on eldercare concerns may provide helpful tips on a wide variety of pertinent topics.

Whatever is going on in the life of an older adult, remember to take the time to listen to their stories. Consider taking a look at the Lifestyle Care Plan as a resource for a person with dementia to share their preferences  when they need to be in the care of another person.

This quotation by Marcel Proust provides insight when a person begins this journey with a loved one. “The real voyage of discovery consists in not seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”

Link to “Memory Matters” for ALL Ages  cable television show:  Dementia Basics   and Memory Fitness products by Kathryn Kilpatrick

About Kathryn Kilpatrick

Kathryn Kilpatrick received her Master's degree in Speech-Language Pathology in 1968 from the University of Massachusetts. She has worked in a variety of settings, primarily in Ohio, including hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and for decades in the area of home health care. Kathryn is president of Memory Fitness Matters ( and Communication Connection( She offers memory coaching for all ages and has a geriatric consulting practice. She is a national motivational speaker and author of more than 30 products to enhance communication and connection as well as a Memory Fitness Toolkit. Kathryn brings her decades of experience as a speech-language pathologist to all those wanting to enhance their quality of life, particularly when there are communication, memory and cognitive challenges. Her websites offer information on a wide variety of topics related to elder care concerns as well as memory fitness and successful aging.
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