Dealing with memory loss in older people
January 8, 2008 12:54 PM Subscribe
How can I constructively discuss my grandmother's short-term memory loss with her?
posted by anonymous to health & fitness (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I'm currently staying with my grandmother for a couple of weeks - she's in her early 80s. She had a second pulmonary embolism just before Christmas and is still recovering from that (breathlessness). I, and others in the family, are worried about her short-term memory loss. I have noticed this for about the last three years. Other family members have noticed it but thinks it comes and goes.
A trivial example is her confusion about what day it is - this morning she asked six times in twelve minutes what day it was. A more important example is that she is not able to remember to take her drugs (she has three lots to take at different times each day). The most important, warfarin, is supopsed to be taken at 6pm. We have put up reminders in places where she is likely to be. The last couple of days I've said "it's six o'clock" at 6, and she's asked what the significance of the time is. We have been through what she has to take when at least four times in the last three days, and I know my cousin did so before that, and she has made notes on it, but still can't remember it. My grandmother is a very bright woman (was an academic) and is still able to have challenging intellectual conversations, though next day she may have the same conversation again. It's not lack of capacity or inability to reason, it's memory loss. Left alone she spends a lot of time obsessively looking through her diary to find out what's happening that day. She also tells stories about past events (from her childhood to a few years ago) which I don't think are true (conflict with other people's stories, or I was there and know they are not true). I'm not too bothered about this - it's her past and if she wants to rewrite it that's fine - but we are worried in particular about how to get her to take the drugs when no-one's around.
We have talked with her about the fact that she forgets them and she has accepted that she has short-term memory loss, but an hour later she will have forgotten that conversation. We want her to talk to the GP about it but this is very difficult as she constantly says there is not a problem. We have also discussed strategies like someone telephoning her or calling in at six each day to remind her, but because most of the time she doesn't remember that she forgets them she is unhappy about this - she has lived alone for 40 years and been very independent.
Has anyone any experience of talking to people about short-term memory loss and have suggestions about how we can get her to accept that, certainly at the moment, this is a serious problem?
Additionally, should memory problems be something that should stop her driving? She's not driving at the moment but is very keen to start again.
We are in the UK, if that makes any difference, and the rest of the family lives 300-600 miles away from her. Thanks to all.