Tips for managing memory loss

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 or you can change the way you think about things you have to remember.
  • There are also lifestyle changes you can make to help you to stay mentally active. 
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  • 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 physical activity at the same time each 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 and glasses in the same place, so you know where to find them.
  • Keep important phone numbers by the phone.
  • 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.

  • Reduce distractions and focus your attention. Deliberately concentrate on the information coming in. Understand what's 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've 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're 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.

  • Have appropriate, current information and support.
  • Stay connected. It's important to be socially active as this can help with feelings of isolation.
  • Keep meaningful contact with family and friends. This can help with social support.
  • Maintain hobbies and interests. Maintaining these can help with your enjoyment of life. You might like to consider a new hobby.
  • Keep active. Safe gentle physical activity can help you continue to enjoy life. If you're concerned about getting lost while walking, Safer Walking(external link) has information on how to keep safe.
  • Eat well and drink plenty of fluid to avoid dehydration.
  • Stop smoking if you smoke.
  • Have regular hearing checks and use hearing aids if needed.
  • Sleep well.

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.

An occupational therapist may be able to help you work out strategies and use memory aids. You can search for an occupational therapist on the Occupational Therapy New Zealand website(external link).

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Credits: Content shared between HealthInfo Canterbury, KidsHealth and Health Navigator NZ as part of a National Health Content Hub Collaborative.

Reviewed by: Content used with permission from HealthInfo Canterbury as part of a National Content Hub Collaborative. 

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