I’m worried about someone with a memory problem

Forgetfulness can be a problem for all of us at times often depending upon what life has to throw at us at any given moment. However, if you have noticed that someone you care about has begun to have trouble with their memory what can you do to help? If a person’s memory loss appears to be getting worse or is beginning to interfere with their day to day life it might be a wise time for them to visit their GP. They may well need your support with this.

What sorts of difficulties might I notice?

Commonly people with memory loss may have extra difficulty with remembering recent events; they may have trouble with names or might even struggle to keep up in conversation. Individuals may also start to have problems finding their way around, even in previously familiar environments. Sometimes people can become quite suspicious of others, perhaps looking for a misplaced object, and becoming convinced that someone has moved it.

In day-to-day life, the person may be struggling to look after themselves or perhaps has trouble maintaining regular commitments, such as keeping appointments, paying the bills or attending hobbies and interests.

It is important to remember that memory loss may affect individuals in different ways – here we have just given you some of the common examples.

Does memory loss mean that the person now has dementia?

Dementia is not the only cause of memory loss. It is important to remember that trouble with memory can be brought on by a number of problems that can be treated - these include; stress, anxiety, depression and physical health problems. If confusion and memory loss have come on very rapidly, the person might be experiencing delirium that can be due to physical cause, such as a urinary tract infection.

Explanation of the various causes for memory loss might offer a useful way of discussing your worries with the person and may help to encourage them to see their GP. Many people do not see their memory loss as a problem; this is not uncommon.  It is best to avoid disagreement about this issue if possible - remember they are not likely disagree with you about this on purpose.

Fear about the possible diagnosis of dementia can make some individuals and loved ones reluctant to seek help. However, it is best not to delay access to specialist assessment and support. An early understanding of what might be happening, and prompt treatment is likely to be of benefit to the individual and to you as a carer.  

When you visit your GP to share your concerns, they may suggest a referral to a specialist service for assessment. Click here to find out more about the services available.

The page was last updated on 07 January 2013 by andrea.bateman.

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust
Elizabeth House, Fulbourn Hospital
Cambridge, CB21 5EF

T 01223 726789 (open 8:30am to 5pm)
F 01480 398501

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