Memory loss

3. Techniques for coping with memory loss

A number of different approaches have been developed to help people with dementia to cope with memory loss and the feelings this can bring, such as frustration and loss of self-esteem. Although most of these techniques require professional input, for example from a therapist, family carers can also use these methods to help someone experiencing loss of memory.

The person's home can be changed in a number of different ways to help them to manage as best as possible. This is known as 'environmental restructuring'. Examples include labelling doors and cupboards (eg plates and cutlery) and the use of 'special places' for important items, such as keys.

Reminiscence therapy is a method that is used to help encourage people to remember events from their past, using reminders such as songs and photographs. This can help to maintain people's confidence and self-esteem. Carers can use these techniques at home, for example by encouraging the person to talk about their past and share memories.

Cognitive stimulation therapy involves activities and exercises that are designed to improve memory and communication skills. The exercises are based on day-to-day interests, reminiscence and information relating to the current time and place. Cognitive stimulation therapy is thought to have particular benefits for language and has been shown to significantly improve quality of life in people with dementia. Current NICE guidance recommends that people with mild to moderate dementia should be given the opportunity to participate in a structured cognitive stimulation programme which is carried out in a group setting. Cognitive stimulation therapy may also be carried out at home by carers.

Creative approaches can take many different forms, including music therapy, art therapy and drama therapy. Approaches such as these can enhance the person's quality of life and communication skills, and provide opportunities for social interaction.

Talking therapies, such as counselling, can also be helpful for people coping with memory loss and coming to terms with a diagnosis of dementia. These therapies give people the chance to speak in confidence to a trained professional about their problems and concerns. For more information see 'Talking therapies' (including counselling, psychotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy).

To access any of these therapies contact the GP or memory service, or the local Alzheimer's Society office, who may have information about local groups in the area.