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5 ways to cope with memory problems after brain injury

Mon 13 Feb 2017

Impairment of short-term memory is one of the most common effects of a brain injury, and can cause serious problems with day-to-day living. While there is unfortunately no cure available, there are a number of strategies that for many people make it easier to live with memory problems and can increase independence.

We've put together five strategies to help people living with the condition.

1) Adapt the environment

One of the simplest ways to help with memory problems is to adapt your environment so you rely on memory less.

Some ideas for doing so which have helped others are:

2) Use external memory aids

Many people use external memory aids, regardless of whether they have a brain injury or not. External memory aids are particularly important for people with memory problems as they limit the work the memory has to do.

Some examples of external memory aids you could try include:

3) Follow a set routine

Having a daily and weekly routine means that people with memory problems can get used to what to expect, which helps to reduce the demands on memory. Changes in routine are, however, often necessary, but can be confusing.

Relatives and carers can help by explaining any changes in routine carefully to help you prepare for the change, giving plenty of spoken and written reminders.

You could also try the following reminder strategies in order to establish routines:

4) Combine several strategies to make a substitute memory system

Most people with memory problems find it useful to combine several aids and strategies. A combination of two or three strategies can cover the areas where there would otherwise be problems and provide a safety net for things that must be remembered.

Here are examples of the components of two such ‘combination systems’ you can try:

System one:

System two:

5) Improve general well-being

Memory is very important in giving us a sense of our own identity. Memory problems often have major emotional effects, including feelings of loss, and anger and increased levels of depression and anxiety. Some approaches to dealing with this are as follows:

Find out more

Finding a strategy that suits you can be a case of trial and error, and it is important to take things slowly. You should always speak to your doctor before changing your routine, and you might like to seek a referral to a specialist such as a neuropsychologist or occupational therapist for personalised professional support.

This information is adapted from Headway's factsheet Coping with memory problems - practical strategies, which you can download below or from our information library. Much of the information contained here is included in the book Coping with memory problems, and is used with kind permission from Pearson Assessment. You can purchase this book in the Headway shop.

You can contact our helpline on 0808 800 2244 or to discuss any of the issues covered here, or get in touch with your local Headway group or branch.

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