My husband and I have now offered support and reassurance to four older parents with memory loss. While each individual has experienced some type of dementia, all at fairly advanced ages, each of their situations has been unique. Each time the assistance we offered to our parents depended upon putting together a fairly complex puzzle of issues including different health concerns, diverse types of early memory challenges, disparate responses to their illnesses, and of course the fear of losing their memories.
I wish I had known more about what happens early on, when a person is functioning fairly normally, but still has difficulties.
Seven Steps to Managing Your Memory, published by Oxford University Press, is a book that I wish I had read 15 years ago at the onset of aging parent memory challenges. As I read, I learned much about how the aging brain changes and how to manage those changes. This is a book to keep on your shelf in a prominent place and consult again and again.
Published in 2017, the volume is filled with practical information about the brain and memory decline — what to recognize, how to evaluate problems, and what to do when diagnosed with a memory disorder. More significantly, it de-emphasizes the memory loss fear factor.
Written by neurologist Andrew E. Budson, MD, and neurology professor Maureen K. O’Connor, PsyD, Seven Steps to Managing Your Memory is straight-forward, with descriptions of the types of memory problems that people experience and with many ideas about how to cope rather than become intimidated. The authors also offer strategies that an individual can learn and then use to strengthen memory skills. Most importantly, they provide a detailed, non-scary description that demystifies the neurological diagnostic process.
The authors created two parallel narratives, one with vignettes that describe how real people went about identifying and addressing early memory concerns, and a second that includes clinical knowledge, scientific information about the brain, and explanations of memory problems that are normal and those that are not. A reader can follow the vignettes and skip all the explanations, read the explanations and skip the vignettes, or simply read a chapter that addresses a concern, saving the other chapters for later. Or like me, you can read the book cover-to-cover.
Each of the seven chapters addresses one of seven steps, and some of those chapters have sub-sections. Most adult children, after spending time supporting and coping with aging parents (and asking themselves, when will this happen to me?), will likely be most interested in the early chapters. The first contains clear and concise explanations that are easily understood about how the brain works, descriptions of memory glitches that happen to people at all ages, and an excellent summary of how memory and the brain change as we age.
The authors do not shy away from what the memory disorders that people experience, instead sharing clinical knowledge and hands-on strategies that people can use to manage changes.
I was fortunate to hear Dr. Budson present a lecture, during which he went over each of the seven steps while putting extra emphasis on everyday memory glitches that result from not paying attention. I was impressed that, during the question time, he responded thoughtfully with research-based scientific information and (without rolling his eyes) when people asked questions about various products that are promoted online and sold to people who desperately want to improve their memories.
Recently at his web site, I found the lecture below, presented to an audience at a community senior center. Click on the image below to watch the video over at YouTube.