We all take our ability to remember things for granted, until we see the devastating effects when that memory is impaired. Few people understand what it is like to care for a family member with short-term memory loss until they have experienced it.
Answering questions over and over, repeating the same messages many times a day, and dealing with disruptions when someone forgets a key appointment or obligation – each incident is a minor inconvenience by itself, but together they build hour by hour, day by day, until the patience of even the calmest of people is tried.
Memo alleviates some of this stress by repeating reminders and important messages over and over. While most of us are annoyed by repetitious ads, it should be noted that each viewing of messages on the Memo is likely to be new to a dementia patient for a while, and the frequent repetition may help the information “stick.”
This feature may help with the seemingly obsessive behavior that causes a person to ask the same questions or express the same worry over and over again. The problem is that a particular thought IS remembered, but related thoughts are not. So a thought such as “I should have my blood pressure checked” is remembered, but related thoughts such as “It was checked last week and it was fine,” or “I have an appointment on Monday” cannot be remembered, resulting in behavior that appears obsessive.
An additional problem is that non-routine events are startling to someone who cannot remember to expect them. Typical messages that could be programmed into the message line (all taken from real-life experiences) are:
- A man from Superior Cleaning is coming this afternoon to powerwash the deck – it’s OK – I arranged it.
- Dr. Morton said your blood levels are fine and we don’t need to change your Coumadin!
- Don’t eat in the dining room this evening – Jan and I are taking you out to dinner.
- Your insurance bill was paid in March and they won’t bill again till July.
- Remember to give the barber a decent tip today – he treats you so well!
- I know you can’t find your waffle iron – I took it in for repair and they can’t fix it. Walt and I are getting you a new one for your birthday!
- The fluffy orange cat that prowls around your yard belongs to Mrs. Mellon. You can call her at 555-5555 if you want to.
- I can’t come over today till about 6pm because I’ve got a late meeting.
- We don’t know how your basement window got cracked, but the police checked it out and they don’t think it’s anything to worry about.
- DON’T CUT YOUR HEART PILLS IN HALF – you’re supposed to take the whole pill.
Most families who care for a dementia patient can report almost daily experiences where sentences like these are repeated many times before the person can remember. In the meantime, there is constant confusion and frustration for the patient and considerable frustration and stress for the family.
Memo was developed to alleviate this situation for both the person being cared for and the family caregivers.