Where did I put my glasses? The lived experience of older adults seeking medical help for perceived memory problems

Shlomit Rotenberg*, Shelley Sternberg, Adina Maeir

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Purpose: This study aimed to examine the lived experience of older adults who seek medical help for perceived memory problems, defined as “help-seekers.” We examined how they make sense of their experience of memory problems, the effect on everyday life and the role of personal and environmental factors. Materials and methods: A qualitative approach was used. Twelve help-seekers recruited from geriatric clinics participated in qualitative interviews, using thematic analysis with an interpretative phenomenological analysis. Results: Four themes emerged: (1) memory problems in daily life; (2) negative beliefs and emotional responses; (3) coping with memory problems; and (4) memory problems in context. The study describes the implications of memory problems on engagement in meaningful and self-defining occupations, and the negative beliefs and emotions embedded in the experience of memory loss. The results revealed three types of coping responses: active problem solving, reframing perception of the problem and avoidant behaviors. The study highlights the importance of both the social environment and aging process in the lived experience of help-seekers. Conclusions: Multiple personal and social factors interacted and mediated the meaning of memory loss in help-seekers. The study reveals a complex clinical picture that may impede successful occupational engagement of help-seekers.Implications for rehabilitation The evaluation of older adults reporting memory problems should include assessments of everyday functioning, memory related beliefs, emotional status, self-efficacy, and the social environment. The interaction between memory problems and bio-psycho-social changes related to aging should be considered in treating older adults with reported memory problems. Design of group interventions addressing daily functioning, coping strategies and memory related beliefs are recommended.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)3606-3613
Number of pages8
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation
Issue number25
StatePublished - Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Subjective cognitive decline
  • aging
  • geriatric clinic
  • qualitative research
  • subjective memory complaints


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