Tips for managing memory loss
Mild memory loss is very common as people get older. But it can be very frustrating.
You can do several things to make life easier. You can change your environment or the way you do things. We call these changes “external strategies”. You can also change the way you think about things you have to remember. We call these changes “internal strategies”.
External strategies to manage memory loss
- Make to-do lists of tasks.
- Write your weekly plan and routine on a big whiteboard on the wall. Set a consistent structure for your day and week – for example, schedule meals, rests and planned exercise at the same time every day. This will make it easier for you to be organised.
- Break tasks into bite-sized, manageable chunks.
- Try to do one thing at a time.
- Take the time you need – there’s no hurry.
- Use clocks, wear a watch, put up a calendar and subscribe to a daily newspaper to help you to keep track of time.
- Keep a diary or notebook to record appointments, to do lists, information from conversations, and anything else you want to remember. You can also use your computer or mobile phone to do this.
- Use sticky-backed notes to remind you of things you have to do. Put the notes in a prominent place so you see them.
- Keep important things such as money, phone and charger, hearing aid, keys, or glasses in the same place, so you know where to find them.
- Keep important telephone numbers by the telephone.
- Pay regular bills by direct debit or automatic payment.
- Set the alarm on your watch or phone, or use a timer, to remind you to start or stop an activity.
- Use electronic aids. A phone or dictaphone is useful for recording messages and notes. Take photos with your phone to remember things when out and about, for example, where you parked your car.
Internal strategies to manage memory loss
- Focus your attention – deliberately concentrate on the information coming in. Understand what is important to remember and what isn’t.
- Store the information deeply – summarise and relate new information to your previous experience. This helps to cement it deep in your memory.
- Rehearse – repeat information such as names or telephone numbers over and over, silently or out loud.
- Categorise information – practise storing information in chunks, which may help you recall it later. For example, rather than listing items separately on a shopping list, organise them in groups such as: meat, dairy, and produce.
- Practise mental retracing – retrace what happened to help you remember something. For example, if you have lost your umbrella, think about what you were doing when you had it. Who did you see? What did you walk past? Every little detail can help you remember.
- Do something else – if you can’t recall something, relax and think of something else for a moment. Come back to what you are trying to remember a few seconds later. Try to use mental retracing, and associated facts to help you remember.
Don’t try too hard to think of the right word or piece of information – it will often pop into your head once you stop trying. Try not to be embarrassed if you forget something.
We all need help at times and other people are usually happy to be asked. Talk to family and friends about how they can support you. You might find it useful to print out the cue cards listed below and place them around your home in places that will remind you what you need to do.