Consultant neuropsychologist Narinder Kapur believes it is possible to take steps to help you cope with memory slips and trips. Here are some of his suggestions…
Memory lapses are common, especially as we get holder and more especially if we have suffered a brain illness, a brain injury or any illness that has involved stress, pain or radical treatment. In this article, I outline 10 top memory tips that will help prevent fewer lapses from occurring and help you cope better when your memory does let you down.
TAKE IT EASY
1. Try not to do too many things at once. Reduce demands on your memory, perhaps by doing fewer activities or sharing tasks with a family member or an assistant at work.
2. Anxiety, depression, tiredness, pain, lack of sleep, alcohol and some medications can affect memory, so try to control these factors where possible. Try to have a positive frame of mind. Take regular breaks to help prevent fatigue setting in.
3. If you do forget something, don’t get too upset about it. Stay calm and wait for a while – what you have forgotten may come back by itself. If you have lost something, trace back where you were over the last few hours.
BE WELL ORGANISED
4. Keep to a fixed routine, with set activities at set times of the day, and on set days of the week. This will mean that you are more likely to remember to do things.
5. Be organised – have a place for everything, and put back everything in its place. Consider putting labels on drawers, cupboards, containers or files. For portable items such as a mobile phone, you could stick a name and telephone number on the back, or a work address, so that if you lose the item you could be readily notified.
CONCENTRATE AND USE STRATEGIES
6. Try not to let your mind wander – keep on track. Be especially careful to concentrate when you are travelling about. If you are often leaving things behind in a room or on public transport, get into the habit of having afinal check – ‘Look before you Leave’.
7. If you have to do something, do it now rather than later, when it may get lost from your memory – ‘Do it Now’.
8. If you have to remember something such as a message or a name, go over it in your mind at increasing intervals. Regularly bringing something to mind (‘recall practice’) has been shown to result in better memory. If you are forgetful for recent holidays that you have had, keep a written or photo-based diary or video diary, perhaps using your mobile phone. Go over that diary at regular intervals, such as last thing at night or at the weekend. On a wall or display board, you could also have photographs of recent holidays or of key names that you often forget.
9. Try to find meaning in things you have to remember – e.g. by making associations or by linking things together, such as grouping grocery items that go together if you have to remember things to get from the supermarket.
USE MEMORY AIDS
10. Use memory aids – such as magnetic whiteboards, Post-it notes, check-lists, notebooks, diaries, calendars, alarm timers, smartphones and smartwatches. They can help you to remember messages and help you remember to do things at the right time. Remember that a family member, a friend or a colleague at work can also be a good memory aid! If you have a smartphone, there are many apps that can be helpful as reminders, such as apps that help you remember to take your medication.
Professor Narinder Kapur is a consultant neuropsychologist and provides memory assessment and memory rehabilitation services. He can be contacted via his website, www.londonmemoryclinic.com.