Tricks to Trade
Paying attention and focusing is the first step to getting things stored in our brains. So much of the world just flies by that I don’t even notice. It’s amazing.
When the ‘internal’ memory, the part stored in the brain, is damaged or needs some assistance, sometimes I’ve helped people develop ‘external’ memories or systems to help them get things done and remember important appointments or information. Being very systematic and using routines helps. For example, always taking a pill first thing in the morning, then breakfast, then brushing teeth, then getting dressed, etc.. Lists can be useful, too, as long as you can remember where you put them and to take them with you when you need them. As people lose memory, they also have trouble keeping track of the date. Most of us have been confused about whether it’s Monday or Tuesday, but as the memory worsens we may also have trouble remembering the year or the season. At that point it’s helpful to use clues such as the snow outside, fall foliage, or a calendar to track days and events. I’ve had TBI (traumatic brain injury) clients try to keep track of the date by crossing off days on calendars. Sadly, they often can’t remember if they crossed off today or not so there may be several days unmarked or several days crossed off on just one actual day. People usually know the year, but a wild guess can be especially indicative of major problems in memory. That’s why I asked Mom the date when I knew she was getting pretty confused. She was off by over 40 years, so I knew she was severely disoriented. However, she still surprised me when she announced in a very positive voice that she was 134 years old.
My friend Shelley says she keeps everything she can on a highly visible calendar, even though this entails relocating her cat at times. She has formed a habit of looking at the calendar every morning so that she knows what is going on that day and what she may need to do to prepare. I use a little calendar that I can stuff in my pocketbook and have with me to recheck the schedule as needed. If I don’t write it on the calendar, odds are I won’t remember it. Of course, I also have to remember to look at the calendar, which I try to do frequently.
As a kid, I remember people saying ‘tie a string around your finger’ and wondering why a person would do that. Now I know. Having the string is something different that draws your attention so that you ask yourself, ‘what was it I was supp0sed to do?’ Often, I don’t have a string handy, so I’ve been taking an engagement ring off and putting it on the wrong hand or on my little finger, which seems to do the trick. When I need to remember to take something with me, I often put it right in front of the door so that I can’t get out without tripping over it. If I can stick it in the car, that’s even better! “A place for everything and everything in its place.” If only I followed this simple plan for consistency and organization, I’d have a much easier time finding things and remembering where I put them. This type of habit is a really good habit!
Grocery lists can be a challenge unless they’re planned far enough ahead to have a real list and you can remember to put the list in your handbag or pocket so that you have it when you get to the store. If you’ve developed good habits such as always putting it in a special place and checking for it before you leave the house, you’ll be way ahead of the game. If I’m just picking up a few things and want to remember them, I usually take the first letter of each item and make a word or sentence out of them. So linguine, broccoli and toilet paper might become ‘BLAT’ (cheating and using the ‘and’) or even BLT, which would be easy for me to remember. Depending on the list, it can be fun to come up with something.
If I’m on my way to do something, I need to follow through instead of getting distracted by other tasks along the way. I can get back to the other things afterward. I also need to stop putting things down along the way such that I have to retrace my steps to find whatever was in my hand when I started.
The worst thing for me is names. UGH! Some of Myrl’s friends now have double names because I used the wrong one so we now call them by both. When I say “Jim Dave”, he knows exactly who I mean! As I said in the last post, sometimes I have to go through the alphabet to come up with a name that I know very well. If I can associate it with something, often by initials or someone else I knew with that name, that helps, too. Anything that adds meaning in our brains is helpful. So if you can associate a name with something or someone you know well, that may jog your memory when you need it. Often, I resort to “Oh, hi! It’s good to see you!”, not mentioning that I’m still trying to find the person’s name.
My sister, Ann, had a knee replacement and has difficulty with other joints, so she has a lot of physical therapy exercises She told me that she keeps a chart for her exercises so she can remember which ones she has done on which days. This method could be useful for many things.
Myrl and I invested in a memory course on DVD, but we haven’t remembered to watch it yet.
Silver Nugget: Oh, darn. What was it? Anyone remember?