The struggle and emotions that accompany memory loss can be intense and overwhelming. It’s important to remember that not all memory loss is caused by Alzheimer’s. Stress, depression, alcohol abuse, anxiety, chemotherapy, hypothyroidism, a head injury or brain disease, certain medications, or emotional trauma (the origin of which can be wide-ranging).
Additionally, there are specific categories of dementia, such as vascular dementia, lewy body dementia, and frontotemporal dementia.
Regardless of the cause, memory loss is an unsettling and downright scary symptom for people to experience, whether personally or secondhand. It’s important to consult a physician if you’re concerned about your own or a loved one’s memory loss.
Caregiver support tips
• Utilize local support groups – Many churches and non-profit organizations offer free support groups for caregivers. There are also online communities for support, such as Facebook groups.
• Prioritize – Break down your to-do list into smaller steps at a time to avoid feeling overwhelmed or burnt-out.
• Exercise – Even starting out small is useful. If possible, try taking walks with your loved one struggling with memory loss.
• Self-care – Utilize relaxation methods such as guided visualizations, yoga, ASMR, escapism via book or movies, and meditation.
• Learn a new skill – Encourage your loved one’s interest in crafty or artistic activities such as knitting, coloring, crocheting, etc. Keeping one’s mind occupied, engaged, and focused on a positive and enjoyable activity is helpful both short-term and long-term emotionally.
• Make a plan – While sad to think about, it’s a good idea to write down your loved one’s wishes while their mind is still clear enough, to ensure their desires are understood and respected. This is also time to consider utilizing power of attorney for health decisions as well as well as health care.
Habits to reduce risk of memory-loss-related conditions
• Lower your cholesterol and blood pressure.
• Don’t drink alcohol, or at least use alcohol as minimally as possible.
• Don’t smoke.
• Get into a consistent (as much as possible) exercise routine. Physical activity can help maintain blood flow to the brain and maybe even reduce risk of dementia.
• Maintain healthy eating habits. Eating more green leafy vegetables and less saturated fats has been shown to help slow cognitive decline. Also, eating fish with beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and tuna, may benefit brain health.
• Maintain a social life, as positive social interactions can boost emotional health.
• Keep your brain active. Some experts suggest that engaging the brain with such activities as reading, writing, learning a new skill, playing games, and gardening, stimulates brain cells function, and may be associated with a lower risk of dementia.