Short-term memory loss is very common after a brain injury – thankfully there are plenty of coping strategies available. Typical situations include forgetting people’s names, losing a train of thought, getting lost at the shops, repeating or forgetting past conversations, misplacing objects and difficulty learning new skills.
Memory problems can occur with most brain disorders. However they are particularly common with traumatic brain injury (TBI). Trauma increases the chance of bony protrusions inside the skull causing damage to parts of the brain responsible for memory. Sadly there are no cures available for memory loss, but there are many ways of coping and making life easier. It is important to remember that using the strategies described here is not ‘cheating’ and will in no way prevent natural recovery or cause existing skills to be lost.
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Lifestyle changes to improve memory
As with any cognitive issue, memory works better when people:
avoid fatigue from pushing themselves too hard
manage stress and anxiety
avoid alcohol, eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly.
Memory tips to improve general well-being
Manage emotions and well-being
Memory is very important in giving us a sense of identity. Memory problems often have major emotional effects, including feelings of loss, anger and increased levels of depression and anxiety. Some approaches to dealing with this include:
sharing your feelings with others who can provide relief and reassurance. (Contact Synapse to speak about support groups in your area).
identifying activities you find enjoyable and relaxing – such as listening to music or exercising, and take the time to take part in them
following strategies outlined below – they can provide a measure of control which can relieve anxiety and depression.
Adapt the environment
One of the simplest ways to help people with memory problems is to adapt their environment so they rely less on memory. Some ideas for doing so which have helped others are:
keep a notepad by the phone to make a note of phone calls and messages
put essential information on a noticeboard
decide on a special place to keep important objects like keys, wallets or glasses and always put them back in the same place
attach important items to yourself so they can’t be mislaid e.g. using a neck cord for reading glasses
label cupboards and storage vessels as a reminder of where things are kept
label perishable food with the date it was opened
paint the toilet door as a distinctive colour so it is easier to find
label doors as a reminder of which room is which.
Attention and concentration problems
A brain injury can affect attention or concentration abilities, leading to problems with work, study and everyday living.