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How to Live and Cope with Memory Loss

Memory loss is a widespread problem that we, as people, have to deal with as we get older. Some of us do “experience normal cognitive functioning even in old age,” meaning that some of us will not have any memory loss as we grow older, but it is still a large problem that we face [1]. There are many people who experience a decline in cognitive and memory function as they grow older. This is because memory problems are seen very prominently among those who develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Memory loss is categorized as the inability to remember certain events due to injury to the brain, illness, or drugs (though aging and stress are also common causes). Some signs that memory loss is taking a hold of someone are if they: repeat themselves constantly, get lost, have trouble following specific directions, have confusion, etc.

Oftentimes, those who suffer from memory loss in any form may withdraw from their loved ones. In a study of individuals between 58 and 80 with mild memory loss, half of the participants declined to attend a focus group for the following reasons: “not being able to be reached by telephone, illness, they believed that they had nothing more to offer in terms of discussion, they were uncomfortable discussing their problems in a group setting” [2]. The participants opened up about certain symptoms that they were having as a result of memory loss. Many admitted to forgetting little things, important things, bits of/whole conversations, and directions when driving. Many participants also expressed wanting to talk to someone about their memory problems without knowing where to go or who to talk to. Most did not want to receive a proper diagnosis because they were scared or did not believe they were having problems with their memory in the first place. This resulted in an overall consensus that patients with any form of memory loss believed that more knowledge about memory loss was needed in order to assist them with their problems.

So, what are some ways in which individuals living with memory loss can combat their symptoms? There are two main tactics: non-pharmaceutical interventions and pharmaceutical means.

Non-pharmaceutical interventions are changes that a person can make to the way they are living. This can include, but isn’t limited to: physical activity, social activity, diet, and cognitive training/stimulation [1]. Exercise, for example, has been shown to help those struggling with memory loss as a result of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). What physical activity does is reduce the risk of cognitive impairment/decline. Coupled with exercise and cognitive training, a healthy diet can also contribute to a reduced risk of memory loss. Cognitive training and cognitive stimulation are two sides to the same coin, but together they can help battle memory loss. Cognitive training is when a certain routine is set for the patient experiencing memory loss. This routine allows the patient to “aid specific cognitive functions” and remember everything that is a part of that routine [1]. Cognitive stimulation is the opposite, where the patient is exposed to less structure in order to stimulate and rehabilitate cognitive processing.

Some other methods that can be used include “stimulating the individual’s functioning and preventing ‘excess disabilities’ through global or specific cognitive stimulation and exercise (e.g., reality orientation training, cognitive rehabilitation, CST, memory groups, movement therapy, and bright light therapy) or by the application of compensatory aids (e.g., assistive technology); and on the psychological acceptance of, and dealing with, cognitive limitations to improve the quality of life” [3].

Reminiscing activities are also a method that is very popular and widely used among those with dementia. This is when the patient goes through the process of recalling certain memories. This can be just from memory, or it can be with the aid of music, pictures, videos, etc. Although it has not been thoroughly studied, reminiscence therapy showed “a significant improvement in cognition and mood and a reduction of stress in the informal carers who participated in the groups” [3]. It also shows positive effects on “social behavior, aggression, sense of identity and enjoyment” [3].

Pharmaceutical interventions include any medication-based strategies used to make a patient feel better. In the case of memory loss, there are drugs that have been developed in order to battle Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common type of dementia, where the brain shrinks as you age. Some of these include “acetylcholinesterase inhibitors rivastigmine (Exelon®), donepezil (Aricept®) and galantamine (Reminyl®), and the NMDA-antagonist memantine (Ebixa®)” [3]. These medications work effectively for patients with mild to severe cases of AD, slowing down “the deterioration of the thinking and memory functions, such as language and arithmetic problems, orientation and alertness” [3].

It is important to intervene as early as possible when it comes to memory loss (or any other life-changing disease). It is true that “many of these age-related conditions are treatable, and unfortunately older adults are missing out on timely interventions” due to mistrust in themselves and in other people [2]. It is important to find a doctor that is knowledgeable about memory loss and has the ability to confidently “discuss the problem of memory loss, answer questions, and diagnose and assist in managing the illness in a supportive environment” [2].

Technology is becoming an avenue for those who are suffering from memory loss. Smart homes that can “detect and analyze health and other events” are more available to the public and can help those living with memory loss to utilize AI in order to improve their day-to-day life [4]. Navigation is made easier with the use of GPS systems, which can lead to improved socialization. For entertainment and leisure purposes, technology can also be used for memory improvement applications and games. This will help with cognitive stimulation in a way that does not make the patient feel like they are doing work, so it helps them to avoid feeling pressure.

For caregivers, dementia technology also helps them to assist their patients. Virtual visits are much easier for caregivers to give advice and encouragement on the go. Robot-based applications are also being researched, where these robots would be “supporting food preparation, eating and participation in recreational activities in care homes” [4]. With a majority of those with dementia being cared for by family members, this can be a very welcome option for them, as they can avoid the mental and physical stress that comes with taking care of their loved ones.

The future of technology, for those suffering from memory loss, predicts that there will be the use of nanotechnology. In the future, nanotechnology can either “repair” brain damage or [be used] for drug delivery,” which would lead to massive progression when it comes to specific diseases [4]. This opens up a lot of different avenues, including “possibilities for delivering new types of interventions for people either with dementia or ideally, before dementia develops” [4].

So, if you or a loved one has dementia, do not be afraid to reach out. There are numerous sources that can provide helpful information about memory loss, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease. It is important to find a trusted doctor, as well, so that you can start the process of intervention as early as possible.


1. Ross, Sabrina & Hofbauer, Lena & Rodriguez, Francisca. (2022). Coping strategies for memory problems in everyday life of people with cognitive impairment and older adults: A systematic review. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. 37. 10.1002/gps.5701.

2. Parsons K, Surprenant A, Tracey AM, Godwin M. Community-dwelling older adults with memory loss: needs assessment. Can Fam Physician. 2013 Mar;59(3):278-85. PMID: 23486801; PMCID: PMC3596209.

3. Rose-Marie Dröes, Henriëtte G van der Roest, Lisa van Mierlo & Franka JM Meiland (2011) Memory problems in dementia: adaptation and coping strategies and psychosocial treatments, Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics, 11:12, 1769-1782, DOI: 10.1586/ern.11.167

4. Astell A, J, Bouranis N, Hoey J, Lindauer A, Mihailidis A, Nugent C, Robillard J, M: Technology and Dementia: The Future is Now. Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord 2019;47:131-139. doi: 10.1159/000497800



Author: Kayjah Taylor

Editor: Lauryn Agron

Health scientist: Catherine Sarwat

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