Alzheimer's Disease: A Guide for Families

By Lenore S. Powell; Katie Courtice | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 11
The Psycbological Toll
of Memory Loss

Alzheimer's disease and similar memory-impairing illnesses usually develop very slowly. For this reason, a person who is in the beginning stages of such a disease may be aware, from time to time, that there is something wrong with his memory. This is such an extremely difficult discovery to accept that some people deny that anything is amiss. They project their forgetfulness and communication problems onto others. Thus, they may blame the caregiver for hiding things or failing to tell them about important decisions or events. Accusations are insulting and painful for the caregiver. They emanate from the humiliation your relative may feel when he forgets something important; the realization that his memory is slipping away may just be too frightening.

Some people who develop memory impairment are both intellectually and emotionally aware that their mental processes are not working as well as before. That recognition, in the early stages of the illness, may cause psychological difficulties over and above the memory loss. Your relative may become embarrassed, frustrated, angry, or depressed about the implications of his condition.

At this point, the Alzheimer's patient can benefit from psychotherapy. He will learn through psychotherapy to accept and deal with his disability, as well as some techniques for living with an imperfect memory and ways of compensating for it. Memory enhancement programs teach the

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