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10 things we take for granted that people with dementia forget

Lloyd VaughanKirsty MaraisKaty McIntosh

1. Recognising your nearest and dearest

Looking through precious photo albums reminds us of our past, but imagine not being able to recognise your friends and family staring back at you. That’s the tragic prospect facing people with dementia.

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2. Your favourite foods

Whether it’s a home-cooked roast dinner or a simple bar of chocolate, we all have our favourite foods. But as this terrible condition advances, not only may individuals forget these familiar comforts, they may forget to eat or even how to swallow too.

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3. Social awareness

Reacting to a situation – happy or sad – is a basic part of human communication. Some people with dementia lose their social awareness skills, including the ability to show empathy and how to behave in certain situations.

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4. Driving

Driving from A – B is routine for most but people with dementia may not only forget how to drive, but how to move their body to enable them to get into a car.

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5. Forgetting the simple things

Repeatedly forgetting to do simple things like closing the fridge door, turning off the oven, making a cup of tea or locking the door are all signs of memory loss – an early symptom of Alzheimer’s disease which is the most common cause of dementia.

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6. Forgetting words

During a conversation, people in the early stages of dementia may struggle to think of words. In the later stages of the condition individuals may lose the ability to communicate altogether.

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7. Basic body functions

When nature calls we know what to do. People with dementia may eventually lose control of their basic bodily functions leaving them completely reliant on others for their care.

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8. Reading a newspaper

Reading a newspaper is part of many people’s daily routine, but for people with dementia it can be an impossible task as they may lose their cognitive functions, including the ability to read.

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9. Your home

Our home is our sanctuary where we can close the door to the world, but people with dementia can forget all things familiar to them including their home.

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10. Your career

Our careers can define us and leave us feeling fulfilled, but dementia can delete years of knowledge and experience and even the most high-powered careers may be forgotten.

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6 Responses to 10 things we take for granted that people with dementia forget

  1. Avatar
    Tracey chapman 27 March 2015 at 10:00 pm #

    Hi Louise

    Whilst using social network forums to share information about dementia is great I’m afraid using words like ‘terrible & tragic’ send out the wrong sort of message.
    We know that dementia is a progressive disease and that at the moment there is no cure however as a dementia nurse specialist part of my role is to educate and give the message that you can live well with dementia but I’m afraid this article does the opposite, in turn creating a greater fear for those that may have been recently diagnosed or their carer.

    Regards
    Tracey

  2. Louise Martin
    Louise Martin 30 March 2015 at 11:05 am #

    Thanks for your feedback Tracey.

    Every person living with dementia will have a different experience and this blog highlights some of the possible symptoms that people diagnosed with dementia may experience. Recent research from Alzheimer’s Research UK suggests that as many as three quarters of people don’t appreciate that dementia is caused by diseases in the brain, with many writing off the condition as a bit of old age forgetfulness.

    Dementia is a devastating, degenerative condition affecting 850,000 people in the UK right now. Alzheimer’s Research UK firmly believes that research will change the future, but to do this we have to continue to raise public awareness of dementia and dementia research and the powerful language we have used in this blog is a way of doing this.

  3. Avatar
    Yvonne 30 March 2015 at 12:51 pm #

    Hi Louise

    I’m afraid I have to agree with Tracy. People living with dementia are campaigning hard to reduce the stigma attached to living with dementia.

    “During a conversation, people in the early stages of dementia may struggle to think of words. In the later stages of the condition individuals may lose the ability to communicate altogether”.

    Most of our communication is non verbal, even if the ability to use verbal communication is lost, people living with dementia can and do still communicate their needs in a variety of other ways.

    Yvonne

  4. Avatar
    Jayne Goodrick 30 March 2015 at 5:33 pm #

    You have concentrated on 10 things that people with dementia forget, as per your title.
    I would disputed forget is the right term to use.

    Here are my thoughts in chronological order:

    1. Delete “tragic (!) prospect” and replace with potential.
    2. I dispute that individuals forget their basic comforts. The persons taste may change, and they dislike foods that earlier were favoured. The smell of certain foods becomes offensive, so no longer enjoyable. I would not say they forget.
    3. No issue, apart from ANOTHER old person photo.
    4. Not strictly true to say they forget. They become less able to multi task, they can become visually impaired due to the dementia, and the eyes and the brain not communicating properly. And the body does not ‘forget’ how to move, it becomes unable to move.
    5. No great issue.
    6. Until end stage and even then not so for everyone, the ability to communicate is still there. It is up to those around the person to be adept at understanding the communication.
    7. Not true. Becoming incontinent does not render you totally reliant on others. That all depends upon what other impairments are present.
    8. 9. and 10. No issue.

    Good try though

  5. Avatar
    A Daughter 31 March 2015 at 7:25 am #

    Many of the points you make in your blog applied to my Mum’s experience of dementia. She wasn’t able even to recognise her own image in a mirror, just as she was unable to recall the names or faces of people she’d known for decades. She failed to make the connection between hunger and the food placed in front of her so needed help to eat. Perhaps she became immune to feelings of hunger.

    She became totally disinhibited and when in her care home towards the end of her life, she would walk naked into other people’s rooms, urinate and defecate whenever she felt the need to do so and wherever she chose. Round-the-clock care was essential for all her needs.

    Her verbal communication stopped totally within 4 years of her being diagnosed, and non-verbal communication never came into being, so I perhaps don’t agree with Yvonne’s comment. Crying and sobbing became her only release.

    Your blog fits the picture of my Mum’s dementia. To a T. For her, dementia was indeed a terrible condition and a devastating experience altogether.

    Personally I prefer to use the word ‘recall’ rather than ‘forget’ or memory loss. I also try to remind myself that no one experience in life matches another, and I would suggest more use of the word ‘some’. Some people may be able to live well with dementia – some people can’t. If dementia wants to gallop through, there’s precious little anyone can do about that. That is when dementia shows its true colours.

    My only other comment on your blog would be that the photographs are too big.

  6. Avatar
    Jade 22 April 2015 at 9:29 am #

    I feel that Tracey’s response is one-sided.

    People living with dementia can certainly lead a happy and fulfilling life during the early and moderate disease stages, and this should be represented when speaking about dementia. However, words like ‘terrible & tragic’ are equally appropriate when describing the condition – it is ultimately both of those things.

    Part of the stigma surrounding dementia is caused by an unwillingness to use these negative words and to talk about it in the harsh and realistic terms needed. This leads to the perception of dementia as an old-age inconvenience rather than the serious life-shortening disease that it is.

    People with dementia should certainly not be stigmatised, and this should be addressed by changing attitudes through education and by presenting the full-spectrum of the dementia journey. Masking the most negative aspects of the condition and only presenting people living well with dementia won’t prevent stigma, it will just breed misunderstanding.

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