Living with dementia

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Changes in your abilities

[From the Shared Experiences: Suggestions for those with Alzheimer's disease booklet and audiotape by the Alzheimer Society of Canada. To get a copy, contact your local Alzheimer Society.]

One way to cope with the changes is to focus on what you are still able to do, and to continue to participate in activities that are meaningful to you. There may come a time when you will have to accept help from family members and friends. If you let them know what is needed, they can assist in maintaining your independence.

Some changes you will experience

Memory loss
You may find that you do not remember a person's name at the time, but the name comes to you later. Or you start talking to someone and in mid-sentence you forget what you were talking about.

Communication problems
You may find yourself reaching for a word but it is not there. Or you intend to say one word but a different word comes out.

Difficulty performing tasks
You may find yourself getting frustrated trying to do things you used to be able to do, like following a recipe, using woodworking or craft tools, turning on the correct burner on the stove, balancing a cheque-book.

Disorientation or confusion about time and place
One person experiencing time disorientation speaks of showing up at church an hour early. Another person with place disorientation is hesitant to take buses for fear of getting off at the wrong stop.

Visual perception problems
You may be looking straight at an object, but you cannot identify it. For example, with money, you may have difficulty telling one coin from another.

Spatial perception problems
You may have difficulty walking up and down stairs because you are misjudging the height of the stairs or the distance between them.

Poor or decreased judgment
When judgment is affected in Alzheimer's disease, you may choose clothing that is not appropriate for the weather. Or not understand why it may not be safe for you to continue driving.

Changes in mood and behaviour

It is natural to feel anxious, irritable and moody at times as you cope with the changes in your skills and abilities. Some people may also find that their personality is changing. As one person describes it, "You don't smile like you used to."

Changes in physical abilities

Alzheimer's disease can affect your physical co-ordination. For instance, you may not be able to get your arm into a shirtsleeve.

Some suggestions for adjusting to changing abilities

We asked individuals living with Alzheimer's disease for their advice on how to adjust to changing abilities. Here are some of their suggestions:

  • "Write things down in a notebook when you are in a conversation."
  • "Use Post-it Notes."
  • "Do one thing at a time."
  • "Use loud, noisy timers to remind you that you have something on the stove."
  • "Take your time and tell others to give you time."
  • "Don't be shy to ask for help."
  • "Keep busy. Find things to do that you enjoy."
  • "If you no longer enjoy reading, try talking books, audiotapes and videotapes."
  • "If church services are too crowded, find out which services have less people."
  • "Join a support group. You can commiserate with others. It reduces the isolation."

Last Updated: 12/16/11