Practical Solutions for Coping with Memory Problems

How can you adapt and cope with everyday memory problems? 

Unfortunately, there is no simple cure for memory problems. However, the good news is that there are a number of things you can do which can make living with memory problems easier. These include: 

  1. Adapting your environment 

  2. Using memory aids 

  3. Following a set routine 

  4. Improving general well-being 

1. Adapting your environment

One thing you can do to help your memory problems is to alter your surroundings so that you do not need to rely on your memory as much. Here are some useful ideas that you might try: 

  • Keep a notepad by the phone to make note of phone calls and messages. 

  • Keep a list of important contact numbers by the phone- eg. Doctor, family, neighbours, local garda station.

  • Use an electronic memory aid such as ‘Alexa’ to provide reminders for important everyday tasks or appointments.

  • Put important information on a whiteboard or noticeboard board. 

  • Decide on a special place to keep things such as keys, handbags, wallets and glasses, and be sure to always put them back in the same place after using them. 

  • Arrange with your bank to pay regular bills automatically by direct debit or standing order.​

  • Label cupboards in the kitchen as a reminder of where things are kept.

  • Label doors as a reminder of which room is which.

  • Use a clock that has a large face showing the time, date and day of the week. 

  • If there is a chance that you might wander from the house when confused you might find it helpful to put a large ‘stop’ sign on the inside of the front door. ​​

2. Using memory aids

Memory aids are any tools or objects that help you to remember things.Most of us would not get through our day-to-day lives without using some kind of memory aid! We keep diaries to remind us of appointments, make lists to remind us of the things we have to do, and ask others to remind us not to forget. 

​Memory aids are even more important when you have memory problems. They can take over some of the tasks that memory would otherwise perform, and help to reduce the amount of things that you need to remember. Different things will work for different people so choose the ones that suit you.

Here are some useful ideas for memory aids: 

  • Electronic memory aids/ Virtual Assistants 

  • Diary and Calendar

  • Notebooks and “Post it” notes

  • Making lists

  • An alarm clock or timer 

  • Wipe-clean notice board 

  • A tape recorder or Dictaphone

  • A pill dispenser box for medication

  • Locator devices

  • Stove alarm to help remember to turn off the cooker

  • GPS Route Finder

It is important when you use memory aids that you choose whatever works for you. Look for aids and tools that fit with the skills you have. For example, if you have never used a mobile phone with a calendar, you may find it difficult to start using one now. 

It can take time to set up routines and to get used to using memory aids. Try not to get too frustrated, give yourself time.

3. Making life easier by following a set routine

A simple way of reducing the impact of memory problems is to follow a set routine or structure for each day or week. Having a routine and a structured day means that you can get used to what to expect, which can help to reduce demands on your memory. 

You can use a diary or calendar to make note of regular activities. Another approach is to make a chart showing regular activities, perhaps using photographs or pictures, and to display this on a noticeboard as a reminder. Alternatively, you can use electronic aids to provide verbal reminders and cues throughout the day.

At times, changes in routine can be confusing when you are experiencing memory problems, so it is usually a good idea for relatives and friends to explain any changes carefully and thoroughly. 

4. Improving 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 you can try to deal with this are as follows: 

  • Follow the strategies as outlined in this information guide. They can provide a measure of control which may relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression. 

  • Focus on activities that you can still do and enjoy. Keep active with your hobbies and interests. Stay in touch with family, friends and your local community.

  • New experiences can promote our brain health so consider exploring new hobbies such as painting, gardening or singing in a choir. 

  • Keep physically healthy to help protect the brain from further decline. Try to maintain a balanced and nutritional diet by eating plenty of fruit and vegetables. Brisk walking, up to five times a week, may also help to support brain health. 

  • Try to avoid stressful situations whenever possible. For example, memory problems may cause frustration and stress. Consider using memory aids or seeking help from family or friends. Try to relax as anxiety can affect how you absorb and retrieve information. 

  • Share your feelings with others. People with memory problems often find that talking to people who understand their problems can provide relief and reassurance.  Ask for help If you want help or feel things are getting more difficult, talk to your loved ones, your doctor or call the Alzheimer National Helpline 1800 341341