Ways to Improve Your Memory Skills Podcast Interview

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I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Kathe Kline in March 2017 for the Rock Your Retirement Show and it went live on 23 Oct 2017. Have a listen to my 30-minute audio only podcast (it’s like a radio show) to hear me talk about various topics including tips on how to improve memory skills. You can play it off your device, or download and listen to it later. There is a freebie on this as well, you just have to sign up to get a copy of it (see link below).

Link to the interview – Ways to Improve Memory Skills

Here are links to the show in popular smartphone apps:

iTunes

Stitcher

iHeartRadio

I have also provided a Freebie for the listeners – Five Strategies to Help Improve Memory Skills.

After you’ve had a listen, please feel free to comment on the Rock Your Retirement Show interview link page (see link above), or down below, here. Or just send me a personal note.

About Rock Your Retirement and Kathe Kline.

Rock on!

Angela G. Gentile

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Angela G. Gentile  MSW, RSW is a clinical social worker and author of the book, “Caring for a Husband with Dementia: The Ultimate Survival Guide”, “A Book About Burnout: One Social Worker’s Tale of Survival” and the “Dementia Caregiver Solutions” app for iPhone and iPad. She lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba with her husband and has two adult children. She is creator of the Facebook communities – “Aging Well for Women” as well as “God, Cancer and Me.” For more information, visit: www.AngelaGGentile.com

 

 

 

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Senior Moments: Should I Be Worried?

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Although I don’t particularly like the term “senior moment,” most older people know what that means. When someone who is at middle age or beyond has difficulty remembering something such as, “Where did I put my reading glasses?” or “I can’t remember her name” he/she may find someone else responding in a joking fashion, “Are you having a ‘senior moment?'” The other person is replying with a joke about having a poor memory. I have heard people themselves make jokes about their own “senior moments” in hopes of making light of the situation. It’s true that as people age there are normally changes in memory and thinking skills. On one end of the spectrum there is normal aging that affects everyone. At the other end is dementia which is common but not normal.  In between is a condition known as mild cognitive impairment. I will touch on all three.

We all have memory lapses on occasion

It’s true we all have occasional lapses in our memory. I even see my teenage children doing it. I even remember walking into a room years ago, forgetting what I went in there for, having to go back to what I was doing in order to jog my memory. Little lapses in memory is common for everyone. We get distracted or side-tracked especially when it is something that is not really that significant. Forgetting names is a common occurrence for example.

I have been working with older adults for over 25 years now and I see all different types of memory and thinking problems. I also know many older people (including caregivers) who do not show any signs of cognitive (brain function) decline.

I often note increased anxiety in people who are struggling with the loss of cognitive abilities. It must be a scary feeling to know that they are losing their faculties.

One of the common fears people have is developing dementia. Declining memory skills are often one of the first signs of dementia. The good news is that memory problems do not always lead to dementia.

Normal aging, mild cognitive impairment and dementia

Slowed thinking and minor problems with remembering things is quite common and almost expected in our later years. There are some things we can do to help reduce our risks of further problems with our cognition such as exercising (to get the blood pumping to our organs including the brain) and doing brain exercises (such as crosswords and learning a new musical instrument). Normal aging causes us to slow down in more ways than one.

Sometimes our memory problems become more problematic and they are noticed by other people. If you are continuously forgetting someone’s name or miss appointments, this may start to interfere with your relationships and daily functioning. You may have to learn new ways of coping with the normal changes in your brain such as keeping lists handy and using your calendar more regularly. Memory and thinking problems that can be noticed by others but don’t really affect your day-to-day functioning is called Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI).

By the way, it’s a good sign if a person is aware of or concerned about their changing memory skills as one of the skills lost in dementia is the ability to know they have problems with their memory. If you ask someone with dementia if he/she has memory problems, he/she will most likely say “No.” It’s true that long term memory may still be intact.  It’s the ability to remember recent events and learn new information that is lost.

In some cases your memory skills, thinking and cognitive functioning may be impaired to the point where you can no longer do things on your own. For example, you may need someone to give you your medication on a daily basis or else you will forget. Or you can no longer drive because your sense of direction is off. Dementia is a syndrome and can be found in a variety of conditions  that affect cognition (such as Alzheimer’s disease). In early stages of dementia you can  live on your own as long as you can enlist the support you need to keep yourself safe. Dementia can create a variety of problems. For example, sometimes people with dementia forget to eat, or think they have already eaten. In this case it’s important to have someone provide a reminder or stop by to ensure he/she eats. In the later stages of dementia, it is not possible to live alone.

Seek a memory assessment if you are concerned

If you are concerned about your memory skills or other brain-related functions (such as language, problem-solving or judgment skills), please speak to your doctor for a memory assessment. Let your doctor know if you are concerned your problems are beyond the changes seen in normal aging (such as slowed thinking, and the occasional difficulty remembering things). Only a skilled practitioner can diagnose and determine the difference between normal aging, mild cognitive impairment and dementia, and provide treatment and management solutions.

For more information, check out Aging, Memory Loss and Dementia: What’s the Difference? from the Alzheimer’s Association.

You may also like to check out Senior Moments Explained by Terry Hollenbeck, M.D.

 

Angela G. Gentile, MSW RSW

www.AngelaGGentile.com

 

Don’t you remember me?

Image source: “Oma” from freeimages.com

Image source: “Oma” from freeimages.com

It can be upsetting and frustrating when a loved one with dementia forgets who his/her family members are. Sometimes it’s a case of not being able to recognize faces. Many times I have heard family members say, “He thinks I am his sister,” or “Mom thinks I am her brother.” It can cause distress because it is another reminder that the relationship they once had is eroding away. It is another sign they are losing the mother/father/spouse/grandparent they once knew.

→ For tips on how to manage the difficult behaviours of dementia, check out the Dementia Caregiver Solutions app.

Get into their world.

     One way to look at it is to try to get into the world of the person with dementia. What period of life is s/he in? Is he young and still working? Maybe she is still living in her own home with four young children. When she looks at you, she doesn’t see her 48-year-old daughter. She sees someone she recognizes, but you are “out of context.” It is like seeing into the future. From her perspective, her nine-year-old daughter is in the other room or at school, and this 48-year-old version of her is standing in front of her. She sees a familiar person, but is not sure who.

Put yourself into context.

     Consider this – How many times have you gone to the supermarket or to another public place and bumped into someone you recognize. You make eye contact, but you can’t figure out how you know this person. He is familiar to you. He smiles and says, “Hello!” and addresses you by name. He asks how you are doing. You still can’t figure out who this man is. You smile back, but stay silent because you don’t want to appear silly. Finally, he says, “I am Bill, we met at the last staff meeting. I am the new guy,” as he chuckles. You are relieved because now you can place him. He was out of context. You didn’t expect to see someone from work at the supermarket. When he explained how you knew each other, it helped place him into context.

Clarify if that’s what is needed.

     That is my take on how to understand and respond to someone with dementia and/or memory problems. S/he may need a little reminder of who you are and how you fit into her/his life. Putting everything into context can help relieve the person’s anxieties and insecurities. Even if she thinks you’re her sister, that’s okay, too. If she asks for clarification or she is not sure who you are, gently remind her and put yourself into “context.” S/he will most likely respond favourably.

Avoid using a disapproving tone.

     It’s a natural reaction to want to be angry or disappointed with the person. At times you may have responded in a disapproving tone and said something like, “I’m not your sister! I’m your wife.” This can result in making your husband feel more confused and ashamed.

Respond in a calm and reassuring manner.

     The next time your loved one with dementia mixes you up with another family member or is not sure who you are, consider responding with kindness, patience and understanding. Help put yourself into context. That may help her/him remember who you are.

NOTE: The medical term for the inability to process sensory information is called agnosia. There are different forms, including prosopagnosia, the inability to recognize faces. Check out Wikipedia if you want to learn more about agnosia, or watch this video on YouTube called Prosopagnosia.

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Angela G. Gentile, M.S.W., R.S.W. is a Specialist in Aging who has more than 25 years of experience working with older adults and their families in a variety of capacities. She has worked in private practice, long-term care, home care, health care and non-profit organizations. She is a realistic optimist who lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba with her husband and two children.