Forgetting the name of a person you just met, where you parked your car, where something is that you use every day, or a phone number you have dialed many times before can be unsettling and scary. As you age, it becomes harder and harder for your brain to create a new memory, even while you can remember actions and events from years ago.
People who have early memory loss can use a number of techniques to help with this problem. Some of these are listed below.
- Allow yourself the time to do the things you need to do, and don't feel rushed or let other people rush you.
- Have clocks and calendars around the house so that you stay oriented to time and date.
- Develop habits and routines that are easy to follow.
Keep your mind active:
- Read a lot if you have trouble remembering words. Keep a dictionary close by.
- Take part in activities that stimulate the mind, such as crossword puzzles or board games. This helps keep the nerve cells in the brain active, which is very important as you get older.
- If you live alone, make an effort to talk with friends and family members. Talk with them about your memory problems, so they know how to help.
- If you enjoy video games, try playing one that was developed to challenge the mind.
Keep things organized:
- Always place your wallet, keys, and other important items in the same spot.
- Get rid of extra clutter around your living space.
- As a reminder, place labels or pictures on:
- Drawers, describing or showing what is in them
- Phones, including phone numbers
- Near the stove, reminding you to turn it off
- On doors and windows, reminding you to close them
- Write a to-do list (or have someone do this for you) and check off items as you do them.
- Have pictures taken of people you see a lot and label them with their names. Place these by the door or by the phone.
- Write down your appointments and other activities in a planner book or calendar. Keep it in an obvious place, such as beside your bed.
Other tips to help your memory include:
- See if a friend or family member can call and remind you about places you need to go, medicines you need to take, or important things during the day.
- Find someone to help with shopping, cooking, paying your bills, and keeping your house clean.
- Reduce the amount of alcohol you drink. Alcohol can make it hard to remember things.
- Stay physically active. Try to walk every day for up to 30 minutes and eat a healthy diet.
Verghese J, Lipton RB, Katz MJ. Leisure activities and the risk of dementia in the elderly. N Engl J Med. 2003;348(25):2508-2516.
Daniel B. Hoch, PhD, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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