Memory decline is inevitable as we age but this decline can be slowed with these tools.
The good old days
Young people use many internal memory strategies to help them remember, often without awareness of their use: labelling, categorization, anecdotal summarizing, visual imaging, even physical association and movement. However, over the years, these memory tools may slide into abandonment and non-use at rates which differ for everyone
Professional researcher, Dr. Heather Palmer
Dr. Heather Palmer is a cognitive aging and dementia specialist with over 30 years of clinical and scientific experience. She is Amica Lifestyle’s National Director of Cognitive Well-Being and focuses on helping individuals improve the way they think, feel and function as they age. The emphasis of Dr. Palmer’s work is development of cognitive well-being programs aimed at memory care and assisted living for Amica residents.
Ageing and brain elasticity
Dr. Palmer often uses a ‘highway’ analogy to help people imagine the networks and complexity of information flow in their brain. At rapid speed information flows back and forth across these networks/highways that have been developed over time. However, not unlike real road systems, with age there can be wear and tear such as cracks and potholes. The mental traffic often slows down, sometimes can’t get through at all and will even use detours in order to get mental messages to their final destinations. While the degree to which these changes may occur differ from person to person, often the deterioration is magnified in those with brain injury and brain disease such as dementia or Alzheimer’s.
While there are no current pharmacological remedies for this, being aware and proactively using techniques and strategies can go a long way to helping support the health and efficiency of these networks. In essence, techniques and strategies may slow the degree to which these changes impact your life by helping the memory traffic move along.
Memory tools help the traffic flow
Although changes in memory are inevitable, people should not jump to premature and possibly wrong conclusions about what these changes mean. Forgot where you put your car keys, forgot an item or two from your mental grocery shopping list, forgot the name of the person you just bumped into at the mall? Those are normal memory slips experienced by everyone, not necessarily indications of dementia.
Danger or high risk: time to act
Should these memory slips impact on your behaviour, likely noticed by family members rather than yourself, putting you into dangerous and vulnerable situations repeatedly, then a doctor’s visit is in order. If, however, you are functioning well, you are enjoying life, you feel safe and you are not causing yourself any undue risk or danger, perhaps all you need at this stage is to monitor the degree to which your memory slips are nagging you. Talk about it with your family and same aged peers as they may well be experiencing similar challenges, or even better, they may have found solutions they can share with you. If you are at all concerned it is always best to discuss with your healthcare practitioner.
Use your memory tools kit to move traffic along
Many individuals have discovered use of external memory tools to help move their memory traffic better.
The tools vary. Use as many as you find useful. Here are just a few of these tools:
- pen and paper
- post it notes
- rubber bands
- coloured plastic chips
- calendar cards
- fridge calendars
- smart phones
- sharing smart phone memos
- speaking reminders aloud
- ask others to jog your memory
- anything that helps you.
Use whatever works
Don’t be embarrassed. Be determined. Use whatever memory tool helps you. An elastic band on the wrist, a poker chip in the pocket, paper notes in your back pocket, a coloured rubber band around your keys, whatever helps trigger your memory.
Memory slips away
Memory erodes for everyone, but you can use coping strategies to deal with it.
Just don’t just forget about it.
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