Using Aids to Combat Memory Loss in Alzheimer’s Patients
Thanks to technology and medical breakthroughs, Alzheimer’s Disease is diagnosed much earlier than it was 15 years ago. For Alzheimer’s patients and their families, this can mean a better quality of life as the disease progresses. As the symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease worsen, patients may struggle with episodic memory loss. The goal of the speech-language pathologist is to provide tools and assist the patient with overcoming some of the most frustrating symptoms that impact a patient’s ability to learn and retain information.
Patients and their families report that the inability to remember a beloved family member’s name is both frustrating and upsetting. Recalling the name of a child or spouse was once easy, but quickly becomes a struggle for an Alzheimer’s patient. One of the ways that a speech-language pathologist helps the patient retain their memory is through visual aids, such as a memory wallet, or spaced retrieval training, which can be used to re-teach autobiographical information or vocabulary.
Finding Misplaced Items
What we might consider forgetfulness is one of the earliest symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease. Losing or misplacing items such as keys or a cell phone may be a minor disruption to most people but for an Alzheimer’s patient, it can leave them shaken and flustered. Speech pathologists can help a patient establish a consistent routine for where important objects go. Visual aids such as images of the object on bright paper can also help patients recall where things go.
Dealing with Medications
A patient who goes from taking no medications to juggling multiple medicines and dosing times may feel overwhelmed with the task of trying to remember what to take and when. Even early on in an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, it’s important to establish a system for scheduling medications as well as other important events such as doctor’s appointments. A schedule board combined with a daily pill organizer can relieve some of the tension the patient is feeling and help family members keep their loved one on task.
Strong Family Support Helps Patient Success
Battling memory loss is an ongoing struggle for an Alzheimer’s patient. It’s only through family and the speech pathologist working together that a patient can use their strengths to overcome the emotional frustration of memory loss. Many patients discover early on that they must quit work that they love, and relationships suffer as their limitations outgrow their abilities. As the memory fades, patients may feel as though they are losing the ability to make decisions and become agitated with family.
It’s important for family and loved ones to keep in mind that they must adapt around the patient because as the disease progresses, the patient loses their ability to change. Family members can help with the generalization of strategies posed in therapy sessions and provide constant assistance when utilizing written cues.
With the support team in place, speech therapy can increase a patient’s freedom and improve their quality of life.