Agewise: A positive approach to caring for someone with memory loss

By Diana Bright

Caring for someone with memory loss can present a variety of challenges. Challenges are experienced by the person living with memory loss and by the caregiver. Stress, fatigue, anxiety, frustration and depression are just a few challenges that may arise when caring for someone with memory loss. A common type of memory loss is dementia. Dementia is not a normal part of aging. However, more and more people are being diagnosed with this disease earlier and earlier in life. With an increase in dementia diagnosis, communities are eager for information on how to cope with the challenges associated with one of the disease’s symptoms, memory loss.

Independence is fostered from an early development age. As children, parents teach their children to be independent and to complete tasks on their own such as walking, talking, dressing, bathing and eating. The ability to execute these tasks from start to finish is through growth and development of the brain. The brain promotes short term and long term memory along with a variety of other functions such as language and rhythm. Dementia can be referred to as “brain shrinkage.” As dementia progresses, the brain shrinks causing individuals to experience memory loss, loss of language and abilities to complete simple day to day tasks. Memory loss leads to decreased abilities to communicate.

People living with memory loss need care partners to be able to anticipate what they want, need and think. This can be challenging as the old saying goes “we aren’t mind readers.” When dealing with memory loss, it is important that the care partner learn to pick up on what the person shows you, how they sound and their physical reactions. Learning better observational skills will help caregivers to recognize and intervene when changes in behavior happen. Approach, cueing and the ability to connect with individuals living with memory loss will play a major role in creating a positive approach for everyone involved.

Notice the partner in care piece. All too often when providing care to someone, it comes natural ‘to do to’ instead of ‘to do with.’ It is important to think of caregiving as a partnership and relationship. Relationships and partnerships foster trust. It is also important to understand how humans take in and process data. The human brain takes in data five ways. Sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. When interacting with someone with memory loss, it is important to make a visual and verbal connection before touching. Touching before making the visual verbal connection can lead to a negative reaction. This negative reaction can be caused by igniting the individuals fight or flight reaction.

If you’re interested in learning more tips on positive approaches, join local experts to develop the knowledge and skills needed to make a positive difference in the lives of individuals experiencing memory loss.

An all-day conference will be held Tuesday, May 9, at Daniel Technology Center in Culpeper.  Speakers include Dr. Roddy Kibler, licensed mental health professional and known for his innovative approaches to dementia care; Diana Bright, certified dementia practitioner and recent graduate of Teepa Snow’s Positive Approach to Care training.

Registration for the workshop is $25 which includes breakfast and lunch.  Vendors will be displaying materials and resources.  CEUs are available through Germanna’s Workforce Center.

More information and online registration can be accessed via or by calling Kathi Walker, 540-825-3100 x. 3416.  Family and professional caregivers are welcome.

Diana Bright,MS,LNHA is Virginia Director of Operations at Raydian Properties, Empowering Joyful Elder Living. You can reach her at 551-500-7240 or via email at