Rather than putting excess demands on the impaired memory of someone with dementia, help the person by compensating for cognitive changes. Find a spot in your home that is centrally located, or a spot where you often spend time. Take down wall decor, clear up the clutter and create a memory center in your home that is easily noticed. With practice, it will be the “go to” place for all important information such as the time, date, list of things to do, daily schedule, visitors for the day, etc. One thing to keep in mind is that many people have the tendency to make this area very cluttered with post it notes, lists, photos, etc. The memory center needs to provide just the needed information and that’s it.
Items to place in your memory center:
• Large, easy to read digital clock or a large analog clock with a white face and black numbers. Look for an analog clock with Arabic numbers as they are easier to read than Roman numerals. If you aren’t sure which to choose (digital or analog), pick the type of clock that your loved one is used to using.
• Simple, large wall calendar with minimal designs or pictures. Make sure to cross off the completed day at bedtime. Office supply stores have memo boards with dry erase surfaces that already have a place for a calendar and place for notes or the schedule of the day.
• Telephone. There are many phones available on the market that are designed for older adults. Phones with large buttons are ideal for people with low vision or limited fine motor abilities. There are also phones with memory buttons that can be preprogrammed and dialed with the touch of just one button. This is ideal for people with mild memory problems. Picture phones have room for a picture of the person next to the memory dial button. This is best for people with significant memory issues or limited literacy.
• Notebook and pens.
• Emergency information. Ambulance, fire and police station numbers should be posted in large print. In addition, health information about the person with dementia should be posted in a place for emergency personnel to easily locate it.
The emergency form should contain the following information:
• Name of physician
• Primary health diagnoses (including dementia)
• List of medications
• List of allergies
• Health insurance numbers or copy of insurance card
• Name and phone number of one or two friends or relatives to contact
Make it part of your daily routine to go to the memory center several times a day with your loved one who has cognitive impairment. Show the person the schedule, notes etc. and ask the person to read them. Help the person to develop a new habit of checking the memory center whenever he or she would like to know the events for the day. This will help to reduce anxiety and reassure your loved one.
© 2014 Jennifer Brush, do not reprint or distribute without permission.