The following suggestions may help you develop a plan to help a family member who has an ongoing problem with memory, problem solving, judgment, or the ability to handle daily tasks. These suggestions are basic and do not include all the information you will need to care for your family member. Your doctor may have other suggestions to add to your plan.
- Establish a simple daily routine.
- Set regular times for meals, baths, hobbies, and a limited number of activities.
- Warn the person about upcoming changes in the schedule. People with memory problems may not adjust well to sudden changes in their routine.
- Structure the environment to improve memory.
- Use calendars, clocks, and bulletin boards with pictures of the season, month, and upcoming holidays.
- Label objects.
- Use lists, notes, and other helpful devices as reminders.
- Write daily activities on a calendar or daily planner where it can be seen easily. Or store the information in a phone app.
- Give short instructions.
A person with memory problems may be able to remember only small amounts of information at a time.
- Break tasks and instructions into clear, simple steps, one step at a time.
- Use short, simple, familiar words and sentences.
- Provide simple written as well as verbal instructions whenever possible.
- Teach the task where it will be done.
Teach a task in the setting, or a similar setting, where the person will need to do the tasks. A person with memory problems may have trouble applying what has been learned in one setting to other settings.
- Avoid or reduce stress, which may make symptoms worse.
- Maintain eye contact and use touch to reassure the person and show that you are listening.
- Allow the person as many choices in daily activities as you can. Allow the person to select such things as clothing, activities, and foods.
- Provide regular stimulation of the senses through touch, music, exercise, and scents. Holding hands may get through when nothing else can. The sound of your voice helps too. Speak slowly with a normal tone of voice.
- Stay calm if behavior is disruptive or disturbing. Try to interest the person in another activity.
- Avoid arguing with the person, even if their thoughts are not correct.
- Be present with them where they are in time. If they think something in the past is happening now, it's okay not to correct them.
Creating a safe environment
It's important to create a safe environment for someone with memory loss. Work with your doctor to make a safety plan.
Here are some tips to help you.
- Put all poisons and medicines in a locked or safe place.
- Use a medicine box with a separate compartment or section for each day of the week.
This will help the person remember when to take their medicines.
- Review all medicines and dosages with a doctor or pharmacist.
Many medicines can cause confusion.
- Put bells or safety locks on doors.
- Provide an identification bracelet for a person who might wander outside and become lost.
- Try to prevent falls.
Remove cords and other items that can be tripped over. Remove or tack down rugs. Install and use handrails and grab bars.
Current as of: August 25, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine