Having Dementia Means You Have To Be Creative

Leah Health Guide
  • So much has gone on since my last posting-and it's been so long since I last wrote. I will try to catch you up, one thing at a time.


    Dementia still tries to rear its ugly head from time to time. Some days are better where memory is concerned than others. Last month, I volunteered with a local group who helps out the less fortunate. The group has four flea market days, one in each of May, June, September, and October. Each time, I spend one day helping them to set up for the event and another collecting money from food purchases made by patrons who come to the flea market. Last May and June, someone watched over me as I collected money, making sure I was being accurate. I tried using a calculator, but that did not work out as it did not have a paper imprint of the purchases. My short term memory is so bad that I cannot remember what I have punched in...possibly over-charging or under-charging.

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    The embarrassment is NOT worth it!!! In September, I had an assistant, a childhood friend, who sat with me, watching. I don't mind being watched. Not now. I know it is necessary. Miriam and I have a great time together. Plus, she gives me short breaks from time to time which helps with my concentration. The major problem I had in September was that I could NOT remember the price of sodas-and we a sell a lot of sodas!!! When I worked as cashier in October, I had no one looking over my shoulder. We were short on volunteer help that day. I found in October that I could not remember ANY prices anymore...and I've been doing this volunteer work for years. Knowing I wouldn't have anyone watching me, keeping me on track, I knew I had to make some adjustments to how I did my job as cashier. Here's what I did:

    • I traded a calculator for paper and pen. Using a spiral bound notebook, I recorded each item price as needed, adding the numbers there, getting a total. I cheerfully said, "Okay! Tell me what you got!" and the customer would say something like "I got a cheeseburger, a soda, two snacks, and a fruit." I would write on my pad: 3.00+1.25+1.00+50 (vertically, of course) and add it up for a total of $5.75... This technique worked so much better for me. Sometimes, I would explain briefly that I have dementia and have to work this way...other times, I just did it. No explanation. Everyone was very nice, very patient. It was a bit embarrassing sometimes, though, not to be able to add two sodas and a snack in my head...

    • I used Excel to write down multiples of each priced item. For instance, sodas.
    Soda 1.25 \ 2.50 \ 3.75 \ 5.00 \ etc.

    If someone had five sodas, I didn't need to write 1.25 five times, I just had to look at my chart and count 1-2-3-4-5 and get the price of $6.25. This worked
    well for me and for anyone who took over for me to give me a break.

    There were some areas I could improve. One involved the Excel sheet I made. I have found it too difficult to find food item prices quickly. So, I need to improve the design by putting items in individually and in alphabetical order. I believe that will help a great deal. I also need my tag team friend. I need to call her to enlist her help each time.


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    I hope that my ideas are helpful for someone out there. Not everyone has short term memory loss...these ideas are especially helpful for these people. If you have some thoughts for improvement, just let me know. I love hearing from you!

    Next blog, I will continue with what's been going on in my life. Until then, don't waste one moment in self-doubt...take that first step and bravely walk on!


Published On: October 22, 2010