Memory Help One
Amy Price PhD
In MVA involving injury memory deficits can become an issue. Pain and lack of sleep contribute to this as do many of the medications prescribed to make it go away. There is anxiety and grief over financial loss or changed status. This compounds the issue. Each year more money is spent on pet food than for treatment to restore survivors of mild traumatic brain injury. Eighty percent of individuals diagnosed with mild brain injury have needs pertaining to the injury that are not presently met by current legislation. Treatment is described as too little, too late. It was once thought that if there was no improvement in cognitive status in the first six months following an injury further progress would be minimal. Advances in science show this is no longer an absolute. Progress is possible.Every year Traumatic Brain Injury causes 20 times more disabilities than AIDS, Breast Cancer, Spinal Cord Injuries, and Multiple Sclerosis combined. Traumatic Brain Injuries have claimed more lives than all U.S. wars combined since 1977. Approximately 1.5 million Americans sustain a Traumatic Brain Injury each year. Traumatic Brain Injury is the number one cause of both death and disability in children and young adults.
WHAT IT DOES & HOW IT WORKS
Do you need help fixing your broken brain? Even if you don’t this article contains great strategies for improving memory skills and coping with life.
Want help with your memory? Let us look together at where the problem might be so we can suggest solutions. Information is first filtered through the senses (seeing, hearing, touching, smelling) or sensory memory. The sensory input combines with what we already know as the brain attempts to classify the information before it is encoded into our memories. Before it can be encoded accurately we have to pay attention or attend to it. The brain has only a few seconds of what is called working memory to encode material. When the information is needed we call on it to come out. This process is called retrieval.
POSITIVE STRATEGIES FOR A VARIETY OF SITUATIONS
Retrieval can be enhanced by rehearsal. The most common kind of rehearsal is saying something like a phone number over and over until it sticks in the brain. This is a problem for a person with memory deficits as by the time they get to the last number they forget what it is! In this case there is an unorthodox but useful strategy called chunking, instead of remembering numbers digit by digit such as 301 5700 think of three hundred one, fifty seven hundred. There are other solutions, write information down while repeating it to your self or ask someone else to write it for you. This is most useful when someone is giving you directions. The next step is to read the information back to who ever you got it from and ask them if your version is correct. This is also good for reinforcing understanding in conversation as sometimes what someone says to us is different to what we heard them say or is not what they meant.
To deal with problems of losing things here is some help. Pick places where you are comfortable storing things like keys, licenses etc. Make it a habit to always put them back in those places only. Write down where these places are and put it somewhere you will see it everyday in case you forget. When you go to a store only take something that can be attached to your body, forget about the purse that could be left in the shopping cart or car keys you carry in your hands.
When the memory is less than stellar even a parking lot can seem like a hopeless maze. Most cell phones have voice recorders on them as do many other devices. Record where you parked the car, for example the car is at exit c parking lot level three, third car down. Pay attention to which store you enter and what is close to the door, for example Macy’s, men’s shoes. This way if you get lost you can ask someone where these landmarks are and find your way. Here is another strategy A piece of paper/card with a grid (kids math jotter paper with the little blocks) with place for a couple of stores names around the periphery or a land marks/monument, a McDonalds or a gas station and make an X in the block of the area where you best estimate your car is. A good place to put ID, credit card, money, parking lot stubs is in a 'fanny pack'. If you can not remember how to get somewhere or get home buy a turn by turn GPS or phone a non judgmental friend.
There are many kinds of memory, visual auditory episodic, semantic, conceptual and more. This is good news because it means that you can use another kind of memory to enhance which ever kind is not working for you right now.
Here are some useful strategies. To remember an event think about what else you did, where it happened, the conditions around the event, ask your self how you felt that day, who was with you even what you did afterwards. Anyone of these can release a cue to help you remember.
To remember Peoples' names, think about where you first met the person or go through the alphabet mentally, sometimes it helps to recall their significant others’ names or occupation. Just one piece of information can trigger the missing link. If all else fails ask them for a business card and read it or ask how they spell their names.
Learning something?-To remember something you need to learn, teach it to someone else, read your notes on tape and play them as you walk or at the gym, create a mind map or make the information into a story. Trouble finding words, look up a word that means the same in a good dictionary usually the synonyms will be displayed and your missing word will show up. A good dictionary can also show you how to pronounce words you have forgotten how to say. Forget how to spell it and spell check is not bright enough to figure it out? Break the word into syllables and spell the part you can figure out, from here spell check may pick it up or you may remember the whole word.
In the kitchen-For kitchen memories….don’t leave the room or be otherwise distracted when you have a pot on the stove. The same people that distracted you will remind you over and over about how you forgot something again! Do one thing at a time until your memory is healed, your ability to multitask will usually return. Buy appliances that turn off automatically, this may be expensive initially however it is cheaper than a house fire! Discipline yourself to use timers.
Often individuals forget steps of a process/task. In this case it is useful to lay everything out ahead of time. Think through what steps you need to take to complete a process/task. If this is difficult get someone to help you and write it down or record it for yourself.
For schedules…got an appointment write it down, put it on the computer, in the day timer or on a PDA. Another method is to call your telephone answering service and leave your self messages as they come up. Alternately make a list and number it for priorities then cross them off when you are finished. Too busy to prioritize…you are too busy! Make changes or you will get buried.
I Hope this helps some, nobody remembers everything so don’t beat yourself up. Keep working at it slowly and surely the more you use your brain the better it will get.
Amy Price, Ph.D. Is the Executive Director of The Spinal Injury Foundation. Their Mission "is dedicated to research, education, and advocacy for those with chronic spinal injuries".