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This content is taken from the Newcastle University's online course, Dementia Care: Living Well as Dementia Progresses. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds Dementia can have a wide range of impacts on someone’s memory and thinking. People living with dementia often experience memory difficulties and struggle to remember recent events or everyday words and tasks, for example, how to use a telephone or what medication they need to take and when. As dementia progresses, these memory changes mean that the person may not be able to recognise friends and family, or to remember where they live. Dementia can also affect thinking, reasoning, and understanding. This can result in very visible changes, such as people living with dementia having difficulty following conversations, being able to understand the plot of a TV show or movie, and being able to understand information in order to make difficult decisions.

Skip to 0 minutes and 59 seconds As dementia progresses, these changes to thinking can become more of a problem. And the person may find it increasingly difficult to understand information and communicate their thoughts and needs. Such changes in memory and thinking can be difficult for us as families and carers to understand and accept. It is important to remember that these changes are a result of physical changes in the brain caused by dementia and are not something which the person can control. Different types of dementia can affect different areas of the brain. So memory and thinking changes may vary depending on the type of dementia.

Skip to 1 minute and 42 seconds More information on the types and symptoms of dementia and the way it affects the brain is available through Dementia Care, Staying Connected and Living Well. As changes in memory and thinking progress, the person living with dementia may need additional help and support with their everyday life. They may lack understanding of their need for help and support, which can be difficult and frustrating to manage as a carer. It may be the case that the person is no longer able to live independently due to safety concerns. If you want any help and support around how to manage memory and thinking difficulties, talk to your GP. They will be able to advise you and provide appropriate contacts for other support services.

Skip to 2 minutes and 31 seconds Dementia affects every person differently, so it is important to treat everyone as an individual. It is crucial to understand a person’s likes and dislikes and their strengths and weaknesses as dementia progresses. This is particularly important when thinking about their care and planning ahead. By planning ahead for changes in memory and thinking, you can put things in place, which can help with these difficulties. For example, there are a number of memory aids available that can help to remind the person of useful information, such as where they are or what time of day it is. It can also be helpful to establish and maintain a routine so that the person gets used to doing things on certain days or at certain times.

Skip to 3 minutes and 19 seconds Putting together a memory or life story book can provide a way of reminiscing with the person, embracing any memories of the past which remain strong, such as their wedding day or important events from their childhood. A memory book is a very personal thing and contains things which can help trigger memories of past events. You might want to include photos, letters, and treasured mementos. Equally simple strategies such as Post-it Notes scattered around the house can also be helpful. Organisations such as AT Dementia provide a wide range of information on devices and gadgets and resources which can support changes in memory.

Skip to 4 minutes and 2 seconds These include clocks with extra information, such as whether it is morning or evening, and reminders to drink, which can help and orientate the person. Medication dispensers, for example, can prompt safe medication use. And there are also devices and gadgets to help with reminiscence in life stories. The important thing is to share your concerns and worries with someone who can help you, such as your GP or dementia support worker. With their help, you will be able to find solutions to these problems and hopefully reduce your anxiety and concerns.

Memory and thinking

Dementia affects every person differently, so it can be difficult to plan ahead for how someone’s memory and thinking may change.

In this video Louise illustrates some of the changes that may happen. Knowing this can help you to be prepared. Louise mentions our first Dementia Care course – have a look in the “See Also” area below for links to this and to Andy Blamire’s excellent videos showing how dementia affects the brain.

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This video is from the free online course:

Dementia Care: Living Well as Dementia Progresses

Newcastle University