How Memorized Information Aids in Dementia Care

There is vital significance of memory and particularly memorization at an early age in the therapeutic treatment of people with Alzheimer’s Disease and other types of dementia. Memorization occurs in most cultures beginning at an early age and is demonstrated in song, lore and tradition.  Most people are exposed to methods of memorization that stay with them throughout life, including telling fairy tales, sharing family stories or reciting favorite verses.  When a person develops Alzheimer’s Disease or any of the many types of dementia, memory is affected in such a way that the most recent information learned is lost first and the information learned longest ago is what the person holds on to until late in the disease process.  That information is often the result of a variety of techniques of memorization including intentional methods of memorization like learning drills and reciting through rote practice as well as memorization that occurs coincidently throughout life due to repetition, frequency of exposure to the information and simply ‘knowing by heart’.
This resulting memorized information becomes a valuable tool for those caring for people with dementia to use to reach, connect with, and engage the person when by most other measures they are becoming less capable of interacting purposefully with others.  Even those with advancing dementia are often able to join in and sing a familiar song, some can recite verses or prose like those found in fairy tales or children’s poetry and still others can recite scripture that was learned and memorized decades earlier.  Having the ability to engage a person with dementia often brings about a positive quality of life factor that can be difficult to develop otherwise.
The means in which caregivers of those with dementia can use memorized information are plentiful.  People with dementia do best when they have consistent routines and simple one- step cues for those tasks which they are able to participate in or complete. Using sing-song rhymes or phrases that are familiar to an elder can help that person function longer with the well engrained information aiding their remembering how to button a sweater or tie a shoe.  At other times, a caregiver can interject the well known verses of a song to provide reassurance and calm to a person experiencing anxiety.  Sometimes simply humming the melody to a well known and long memorized hymn can reduce stress and increase relaxation.  Some may be able to describe listening to favorite radio shows or commercial jingles from years ago which can spark other memories and the ability to converse with a new though unfamiliar friend or roommate.  Social benefits can also be seen in seniors with dementia participating in trivia games or discussions about “the good old days.”  The benefit of long-memorized information can bring about a bond between strangers in a care facility or senior citizen’s event when those who are otherwise somewhat isolated from each other can join in with their peers and participate.
The long lasting benefits of memorized information are substantial in the care of those with dementia.  Memories bring about reminders of a time gone by and bring comfort in a time in which many are unsure and their minds fading.

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Posted in Caregiver Support, Dementia / Alzheimer's, Diseases and Conditions, Geriatric Care Manager, Nursing Care Management

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