Watching a loved one gradually lose their memory due to dementia is deeply challenging. Our memories are integral to our sense of self and our relationships. Coping with this loss takes great patience and resilience on everyone's part. Here are a few tips that may help.

Learn About Dementia

It will help if you know what to expect from your loved one's form of dementia. In the beginning, a person with dementia may recognize their memory loss and become very frustrated. They may struggle with communication, making decisions or handling money.

As the disease progresses, the person's memory loss will affect their daily life to greater and greater degrees. Your loved one may forget your name or call you by someone else's name, be unable to recognize close family members or get lost in familiar surroundings.

You may watch your loved one forget how to use everyday objects. Being prepared for severe memory loss may help you cope with it when it comes. Use online resources like this one to educate yourself about dementia. The National Institute on Aging also maintains an extensive online library of information for caregivers.

How To Help Evoke Or Refresh Memories

You may use old photos and meaningful objects to help your loved one recall significant people and places, but use these mementos gently. Although it hurts to be forgotten or called by the wrong name, try to stay calm and explain things simply.

You can also help your loved one accomplish routine daily tasks by setting up simple routines and planning activities that they can accomplish, such as taking a walk together in the morning. If they are still living on their own, you can call to remind them of important things like appointments and mealtimes and when to take medications.

You may find it helpful to label things in the house. Label drawers or cupboards so that your loved one can put things away. Keep a list of important phone numbers by the phone. Label photos of family members and close friends that they may see frequently.

The Value Of Your Presence

Even if your loved one seems to forget who you are, they still need to feel your love and support. Reassure them that you love them and will care for them, and that there are others who also love them.

Let it be your goal to maintain a warm and loving presence. Sometimes you may need to take a break from the situation to regain perspective and gain control of your emotions.

Find Support

As a caregiver or a close family member or friend, you also need support and rest. Respect your own limitations and get help when you need it. Be sure to maintain open communication with other family members so that you can work together. The Alzheimer's Association can help you find a support group and also offers a 24-hour helpline at: 1-800-272-3900.

Joining a support group for caregivers can provide a place of understanding, hope and companionship as you grieve the loss of your loved one's memories.