Updated: Oct 24, 2022
Did you know… this month is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month! And Alzheimer’s Awareness Day is September 21! Typically, the first thing someone learns about Alzheimer’s is that it affects memory. But what else can you expect from Alzheimer’s? And what can you do to help yourself or your loved one who is living with it?
What to Expect: Typically short term memories are lost first before long term memories. For example, you may forget where you put the remote, but still remember your childhood address. This is because it is harder for your brain to form new memories.
Strategies: External supports are the most research-based way to help people retain memories. These can be auditory like a phone or smart device that will tell you what day it is, what the weather is… when you ask it. They can also be visual like a calendar, picture schedule, or personalized photo book of your family, friends, and past accomplishments. You may want to include captions such as names of new grandchildren. By using these regularly, you are more likely to remember them and share about your life with others!
What to Expect: It is not uncommon to notice differences in eating. People with Alzheimer’s may lose their appetite or become pickier with foods.
Strategies: A routine can be helpful! Maybe you are used to saying a prayer and using the same glass at dinner. Continuing to do these can make you feel more secure and comfortable at meals.
What to Expect: Visual agnosia as a term for when you can see an item, but can’t figure out what it is used for. Here are a couple examples: You may be looking in the refrigerator saying you can’t find the milk when it is right in front of you, but once someone hands it to you, you know to poor a glass and drink it.
Strategies: Being in a familiar environment can be helpful! Even if you can’t find a toothbrush in a store, you will know how to use it in your bathroom at home that you are used to.
What to Expect: One can know how to do an action, but have an initiation deficit or trouble sequencing. You may know how to make coffee, but get stuck figuring out what to do first or say you are going to get yourself some coffee, but not stand up from the couch.
Strategies: Communication supports are helpful with sequencing! Post pictures of the order you do your morning routine (shower, shave, put on lotion…) on the bathroom mirror and write the steps for how to make coffee next to your coffee pot.
What to Expect: Thinking of the right words you want to say may become more difficult. This is known as word finding difficulties or anomia.
Strategies: Writing important words down and reading them regularly can also help! Tactile cues is a different way to say that touch can help you think or understand things. For example, if you can’t remember the word for “key” looking at it, touching it may bring the word back to mind.
There are many changes that may come with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, but you are not alone. There are still ways to live life to its fullest. You can find more information about different types of dementia, support groups, and resources at www.alz.org. We would also love to be a resource for you at Julia Temple Outpatient Services. Contact us today about setting up an evaluation for personalized therapy!
Caris Giessler, SLP