Who can support with memory problems?

Find out more about how services and people can support you with your memory problems.

You don't have to face memory problems on your own. There are lots of people who can support you and help you to stay active and independent. They might be friends, family, or professionals. Help is available and it’s OK to ask for it.

Support from family and friends

Remember that memory loss is not your fault. It is due to changes in your brain. Work with those around you to cope better with memory problems. Ask them to read through this handbook with you.

Family and friends can support you by:

  • talking about how you are feeling
  • helping you identify and achieve the things that are important to you
  • not ‘testing’ you – for example, by asking you, ‘Do you remember who this is?’
  • being sensitive and supportive if they need to repeat any information they have already told you.
  • reinforcing approaches and strategies you are trying
  • supporting you to do things, not doing them all for you – for example, reminding you about the calendar clock if you ask ‘What day is it?’, rather than just telling you the day.

Support from professionals

Many professionals can help you live well with memory difficulties. Ask your GP if you think you need to see one of them, especially if memory problems are affecting your daily life. You may be able to self-refer for talking therapies.

Occupational therapists

Occupational therapists can work with you to help you with daily life and personal care. They can support you to continue doing daily activities that are important to you and can give advice on memory aids and coping strategies.

Psychologists

Psychologists can help you with depression or anxiety, and coming to terms with memory loss or a diagnosis of dementia. Talking to a trained professional may help you feel less stressed or unhappy.

Clinical, counselling and health psychologists can also help you to understand which areas of your memory are being affected, and help you develop coping strategies. Make sure that any psychologist is registered with the Health and Care Professions Council.

Speech and language therapists

They can help you and those close to you to communicate better. They can also help you with memory aids and strategies that use language, and provide tailored advice.

Speak to your local pharmacist if you need help to remember to take your drugs. They may have equipment to help you with this, such as alarmed medication boxes.

Structured support approaches

There are some structured approaches to help with memory loss and dementia. Ask professionals whether these are available in your area. You may benefit from trying a number of different approaches as some approaches may be more beneficial for you than others.

Your GP, memory service or community mental health team can help.

Cognitive rehabilitation

Cognitive rehabilitation focuses entirely on what is important to you personally and what would make a positive difference to your everyday life. A professional such as a psychologist, occupational therapist or speech and language therapist will work with you (and in some cases someone close to you) to find out what specifically would make your life easier or more enjoyable.

Memory difficulties can have an impact on daily life in many ways, but there is plenty of evidence that cognitive rehabilitation can help you to meet your goals and cope better with memory problems.

It can also help you to think about the skills, abilities and knowledge you still have. It works by getting you to use the parts of your brain that are working well to help the parts that are not.

This could be by learning to use a mobile phone or by relearning a life skill such as cooking. You could also change or adapt your home. The professional helping you will know a lot about memory difficulties and will suggest the best solution for you, working with you to help you achieve an agreed goal.

Cognitive stimulation therapy

Cognitive stimulation therapy (CST) aims to improve your mental abilities by keeping your brain active. This is done through a series of themed activity sessions carried out over several weeks.

One session, for example, might involve doing word puzzles or talking about current affairs. Then in another session you could be playing an instrument along to music. CST also includes elements of reminiscence (see below).

After the first set of sessions, you may be offered maintenance CST (less frequent ‘top-up’ sessions) to keep the benefits going. There is evidence that approaches such as CST improve mental abilities and quality of life for people with memory loss.

Life story work and reminiscence

Life story work is where you use a scrapbook, photo album or app on your smartphone or tablet to remember and record details of your life. These could be your experiences, values or beliefs. Life story work is usually a joint activity for you and a family member, friend or support worker.

Reminiscence involves talking about things from your past, using prompts such as photos, familiar objects or music. It can help you see your life as a whole and recognise your experiences and achievements.

Sometimes these approaches are combined using a memory box of favourite possessions or memorabilia. Many people find techniques like this helpful because they draw on your earlier memories, which you tend to retain for longer.

By talking about who you are, it can help you and others to focus on yourself as someone with an interesting and varied life who still has skills and interests, rather than only on your current memory problems.

The dementia guide: Living well after your diagnosis

Get your copy of the latest version of The dementia guide for advice on how to live well if you have been diagnosed with dementia.

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