DO:

1- Stay calm
There are many reasons why someone can become more confused or forgetful. If their memory problems are quite recent (perhaps you only noticed when you saw that at Christmas) make sure to consider - and rule out - all the other possibilities first. Anything from insomnia to depression, thyroid problems, vitamin deficiency (B1 and B12), alcohol and medications such as Benzodiazepines (usually taken for anxiety) and high blood pressure tablets, can cause forgetfulness and memory problems.

2- Is it a UTI?
If the person you care about is elderly, or already has a diagnosis of dementia but seems to have gone downhill rapidly, it’s worth checking if they have a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI). This may sound odd, but UTI’s in the elderly and vulnerable can cause confusion, agitation (rather than pain) and generally make dementia symptoms much worse. Once treated however, (with a short course of antibiotics) your loved one’s memory and behaviour is likely to improve considerably. Find out more about UTI’s and memory loss here.

3- Talk to other people
Are you the only person to have noticed this deterioration? Maybe other friends and relatives are also concerned but haven’t wanted to say anything. Or maybe they could offer another explanation for your loved one’s confusion? For example, if it’s a parent you’re worried about, perhaps they’re suffering from depression but have been trying to hide it from you, possibly because they don’t want you to worry. Sometimes, older adults confide more in friends and peers than in their family who they still, instinctively, want to protect.

4- Gather more information
If you’re still concerned it may be dementia – or they’ve already been diagnosed – it’s time to arm yourself with the facts. Why not take advantage of Unforgettable’s new free ebook Dementia Explained. This 82-page guidebook is packed with all the information you’ll need, explaining the signs and symptoms of dementia, the main types of dementia and the diagnosis process, it’s written in a straightforward, reassuring way and it also contains lots of practical tips to help with every day challenges. Download your free copy here.

5- Have a difficult conversation
If you think that the person you love might be in the early stages of dementia, it could be time to have a gentle chat. Pick the time and place carefully (definitely NOT after you’ve just had a row, and preferably whilst you’re in a comfortable, familiar environment). Start by asking very general question such as ‘you haven’t seemed yourself lately, is anything wrong? How are you feeling?’ If they respond by saying they’re fine and nothing is wrong, don’t pursue it. They obviously aren’t ready to talk about it. However, if they do open up, listen very carefully and say something positive when they’ve finished such as, ‘I’m so pleased we’ve talked about this. Why don’t we go and talk to your GP? She might be able to put your mind at ease.’

6- Consider practical ways to help
If memory problems are beginning to impact on daily life, there’s lots you can do to help. For example, if remembering the day and time is becoming increasingly difficult, (one of the early, classic symptoms of dementia and memory loss) a day clock could prove very useful. Day clocks can ease confusion and anxiety by simplifying the time and ensuring that important dates, times and appointments aren’t missed. There are several day clocks on the market now, which suit a wide range of needs and budgets. For a guide to choosing the right day clock go here.

Tip: Unforgettable’s brand new day clock also has 20 pre-loaded messages, reminding you about appointments, meal times, medication and safety etc. To find out more go here.

DON’T:

1- Keep correcting them
It isn’t necessary or helpful to continually correct factual errors or mistakes, even if the person you care about seems to be making quite a few of them. Put yourself in their shoes. Being constantly reminded that you are ‘wrong’ about something isn’t only irritating, it also erodes confidence and self-esteem. Bite your lip!

2- March them down to the doctor
Whilst you may be keen to know exactly what’s wrong, it isn’t your decision. If the person you love simply refuses to see a doctor or expert…you will have to give in gracefully. Perhaps they’re really scared and need more time to think it through. Or perhaps they might respond better to someone else? Whatever happens, it’s important they continue to feel in control of their life and their choices, and that the decision to get help is theirs, not yours.

Want to read more on this subject? Here’s 3 more articles that might interest you

Post-Christmas: Worried about a loved one’s memory?

What is mild cognitive impairment?

What are the early signs and symptoms of dementia?