Memory loss is a common concern in persons over 50. If you are over 50 and find it harder to remember details, don't panic. Many factors may affect your memory, including stress, multi-tasking or a lack of interest in details. Here are 10 proven strategies you can try to help you recall information better:
1. Develop a routine and stick to it. Many persons have a morning routine, but what about an after work routine or weekend routine?
2. Advanced planning can help reduce the risk of forgetting. Keep a large, easy to read calendar nearby with important dates and events clearly marked.
3. Create a place for everything and store everything in its place. This is useful for smaller items like your phone, keys and wallet.
4. Use a back pack or handbag. Place things in the bag that you will need for the day ahead. Pack whatever you think you might need- better to be safe than sorry!
5. Use a to-do list and remember to take it with you when you leave the house! For your home, consider keeping a small blackboard or whiteboard in the house to list things as you remember them, which you can then go back to.
6. Use a Journal to keep track of important plans, impressions, ideas, and appointments. Keep it on you at all times.
7. Develop schedules for different time periods. Plan by the day, week and month, especially during hectic months like Christmas time and August vacation.
8. Use a network of reminders – it doesn't hurt to have several methods to remind you of one important event. Use post-its in easy to see places, or an alarm on your phone, or ask someone you trust to call you to remind you. Get a talking alarm clock to keep better track of the time or a talking pill box to remind you to take your medication.
9. Use tricks to help your memory like repetition or association. For example, associating your medication with your lunch might make it easier for you to remember to take it at lunch time.
10. Focus on one thing at a time. Paying attention to one thing at a time will help you to remember more details. Besides, trying to do too much at once might cause you to feel rushed and stressed out, which can then affect your memory.
The bottom line? Get organised! Your memory will work better if you give it some help by being proactive and making things as clear as possible.
There are 3 licensed medications for the treatment of the above types of Dementia: (for more info on the different types of dementia, visit our dementia page)
1. Donepezil (brand names in T&T: Aricept, Palixid and Yasnal-Q)
2. Rivastigmine (brand name Exelon)
3. Galantamine (brand name Reminyl)
These medications have been proven to do several things:
They are not wonder drugs, but they are the best we have to treat these illnesses.
These medications, like all medications, have side effects. They can make people feel sick, nauseous, dizzy, vomit, have diarrhoea or they can interfere with sleep. However most of the time they do NOT cause any side effects at all. Also, if the side effects are mild they usually go away in 1-2 weeks and so it is best to persist and not give up too easily.
What to do if the side effects are intolerable?
If the person is on Donepezil 10mg daily here are some suggestions:
1. Ensure that the person is taking the medication after a full meal if they are having gastrointestinal side effects (stomach problems). This type of medication tends to be harsh on the stomach, so taking it after a meal is helpful.
2. Sometimes that's not enough and we have to add in a medication called a ‘proton pump inhibitor’ (e.g. Nexium, Prilosec, Omeprazole) to protect the stomach, and that can sometimes work very well to solve the problem. Omeprazole is available for free on CDAP.
3. Sometimes lowering the dose from 10mg to 5mg daily works, and so that is an option that you can try. If that works then we leave the person on 5mg daily indefinitely.
4. If the person is getting nightmares from taking the medication at night, then you can have them take the medication in the morning/lunchtime instead and that may get rid of the problem.
5. Sometimes none of this works and I have to change it to an alternative medication such as Reminyl or Exelon which are both available in T&T but are more expensive (over $1000 per month). Exelon also comes in patch form so the medication bypasses the stomach and goes directly into the bloodstream, therefore avoiding any side effects affecting the stomach. Exelon patches are applied to the person’s back and have to be changed every 24 hours.
6. Finally, sometimes some people do not tolerate any of these medications and we have to accept that. There is a second line treatment however, called Memantine (brand name Namenda or Ebixia), that is not available in T&T but is available in Barbados, the US, UK and Canada.
Dr James Bratt, Lead Consultant at Age Caribbean and Geriatric Psychicatrist.