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Memory, thinking and perception difficulties

3.2 Memory, thinking and perception difficulties

Difficulties with memory or thinking are defining features of having dementia and make it harder for people with dementia to go about their lives

Some people with dementia are more bothered by the way that their memory and thinking problems interfere with their lives, than the problems themselves. Some of the suggested strategies and therapies focus on improving memory and thinking whereas others focus on minimising the impact of thinking difficulties on daily life.


Sensory perception

One aspect of thinking that many people don’t realise is affected by dementia is sensory perception. For some people, dementia damages the part of the brain that interprets information that comes from the eyes.

  • Your eyesight might be fine, but your brain may have difficulty converting the signals from your eyes into a meaningful picture.
  • You might experience trouble with depth perception – i.e. judging how far away something is, or how deep a step is.
  • You might have trouble picking out an object from its background, particularly if it’s the same colour, there are lots of shadows, or the background is patterned. You may also have difficulty interpreting information when there is a mirror, or reflections from wet or shiny surfaces or glare.

Dementia can affect how sensitive people are to their physical environment – including sounds, touch, and sights. Many people with dementia find that their sense of smell and taste is less acute. But some people with dementia feel that they are much more sensitive to sounds and touch, this can make the environment overwhelming and painfully difficult.

Agnes Houston has written about her own experiences of changes in perception in dementia and those of other people with dementia. She gives suggestions on how to manage these.


For more information

Download Talking Sense by Agnes Houston via the Dementia Centre (scroll to the bottom of the page to download or order a hardcopy). Talking Sense is a comprehensive book about sensory and perceptual changes that may occur in dementia.