"Let's Find the Cause of Your Losses in Memory and Thinking
So That You Can Live Your Life Up to Your Full Potential"

Not Like It Used To Be

I forget the names of people I’ve known for years. In the middle of talking to someone, I forget what I want to say.

I Get So Confused

Like, did I take my medicine this morning? I just can’t remember. Everyone is upset with me, but I can’t help it.

It's 3 a.m. and I Can't Sleep

For so long I’ve been so worried about my parents. The whole family is so concerned about their problems with memory and thinking.

I'm Concerned

I’ve known this couple for many years and lately they’ve changed. They’ve stopped going to church activities and they get lost driving.

Treatment Support

It’s past time that these patients undergo more testing than I can provide. I need help figuring out what is going on.

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Solutions for Memory and Thinking Problems
Written by Stanley Ferneyhough   
For most dementias, the leading risk factor is increasing age.  Approximately 10 per cent of all individuals over age 65 have some dementia, half with early or mild dementia and half with moderate or severe dementia.  The incidence of dementia in the population seems to double every five years of age, starting with 0.8 per cent at age 65, then 1.8 per cent at age 70, then 7.2 per cent at age 80, rising to around 30 per cent by age 90.

There are specific risk factors associated with the individual types of dementia.  Factors which increase risk of Alzheimer’s disease include having a family history of the disorder, having a history of head injuries or strokes, and having a history of depression, particularly if the first episode of the depression occurred later in life.  Factors which increase the risk of Vascular Dementia include a family history of strokes and vascular disease, a personal history of hypertension (high blood pressure), strokes or vascular disease, and risk factors associated with heart disease such as cigarette smoking and obesity.  Risk factors for Lewy Body Dementia and Frontotemporal Dementia are less well understood at this time.

  • What you cannot change
  • Genetics (family members having memory and thinking problems)
  • Prior heart attacks
  • Prior cardiac problems
  • Chronic logical age
  • What you can change
  • Uncontrolled stress
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Mood disorders
  • Lifestyle addictions (drugs and alcohol, tobacco, etc.)
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Obesity
  • Medical conditions (Hypertension, abnormal lipids, diabetes, Homocysteine, C-reactive protein, etc.)

As can be seen (#2 in box above), there are a multitude of intervention areas you can address and correct.  If you are depressed, anxious or reacting with significant stress levels to life situations, you can meet with a mental health counselor – such as a psychologist – to resolve these issues.  Medical problems can be addressed by you and your primary care physician.  Most importantly, you can immediately develop healthy lifestyle changes, resulting in weight loss and elimination of non-prescribed drugs, etc.

With increasing deterioration in memory and thinking, psychologists can also provide the following interventions.  Behavioral and other psychological symptoms of dementia can be treated with a variety of non-pharmacological interventions. These falls into three main categories: psychological, behavioral and environmental.

  • Psychological approaches to treating symptoms of dementia include a number of ways to target specific areas of distress. For example, supportive and cognitive-behavioral interventions may be useful to assist with adjustment to the initial diagnosis and forward planning and in treating depression in early stage dementia. These interventions may be particularly useful at the initial time of diagnosis. Psychotherapy and psycho-educational interventions may assist careers both to cope with assisting the person with dementia and to maintain their own health and well-being. Memory training and using external memory aids can assist a person in early stages of dementia to maximize their cognitive functioning and independence. Encouraging referral to dementia support groups can help people to develop useful, supportive networks and realize the full extent of potential support services if or when required.
  • Behavioral approaches are useful in targeting troublesome behavioral patterns in persons with dementia. Difficult-to-manage behaviors may include wandering, agitation and repetitive questioning. A general approach to behavioral interventions involves identifying a target behavior, gathering information on its possible triggers, setting up a plan to modify the behavior over time (including rewarding desirable behaviors) and finally evaluating the success of the intervention. Behavioral interventions maximize the use of retained skills and can often utilize weaknesses to promote enjoyable activities. For example with poor concentration it can be easier to redirect a person to an enjoyable activity. In general, interventions that are individually tailored to suit a person’s unique context achieve the greatest success. Psychologists and some other health professionals can help in the design of such behavioral interventions.
  • Environmental approaches encourage creative solutions to dementia symptoms, targeting the environment of the person with dementia. The ideal environment for a patient with dementia is one that is non-stressful, constant and familiar. Sometimes features of the environment that may seem benign, for example television noise, confusing shadows and glare, may in fact be quite disturbing to an individual with dementia who is having trouble making sense of the environment. Some suggestions: Minimizing confusion by reducing choices, clutter, noise and glare in the environment; providing meaningful activities that the person with dementia is comfortable with and enjoys; this may also reduce boredom and agitation; and introducing approaches such as music therapy and pet-assisted therapy that have also been successfully used with persons with dementia. However, no matter what else you do, be well informed at every stage of your journey with dementia.
  • There are self-help organizations and groups for people dealing with losses in memory and other thinking problems: You can find these on the internet by typing ‘dementia’ into your search engine.
  • Talk with your treating primary care physicians about all your treatment options and other resources that he/she may know about in your area.
  • Talk with a psychologist, especially about the psychological, behavioral and environmental strategies you can use to lessen the impact of dementia.