Memory aids and how they could help you

People’s minds also work in different ways, so that some might recognise faces but struggle to bring a name to mind, while others remember names but can’t put a face to them. Similarly, some people can clearly recall events that happened years ago but might struggle to tell you what they did yesterday, and vice versa.

Memory is a complex thing and, unfortunately, it often deteriorates with age. Sometimes this is due to a diagnosed condition, such as dementia, but in other cases it’s just age-related memory loss. In either case, there are lots of ‘memory aids’ you can employ to ‘jog your memory’ and remind you of things you need to do or know. The traditional way was to tie a knot in your handkerchief, but there are many better options. Here’s a list of 10 useful ways to help you combat memory loss:

Pill dispensers: If you take daily medication, as many older people do, it’s vital that you don’t miss a dose, but what if you can’t remember whether you took it today, or yesterday? The simple but effective solution is a pill box or dispenser which is divided into sections marked with each day, or with morning, afternoon and evening for each day if you take medications at different times of the day. If you preload the dispenser with your meds on a weekly basis (or get a carer to do it for you) you should always know by looking at it whether you’ve take each scheduled dose. If you’ve missed one, it will still be in its compartment. Keep the dispenser somewhere that you will see it regularly. Some even have alarms to remind you when it’s time to take your medication.

Noticeboards: An obvious but effective visual reminder is a noticeboard which you can either write on or pin notes to. Whenever there’s something you need to remember, write it on the board or pin a note to it. If you have a daily or weekly list of activities, put it on the board. Then make sure the noticeboard is somewhere prominent, where you will see it frequently, and make a point of looking at it whenever you pass. You’ll be surprised how well it will trigger memories, but try not to overcrowd it as it could become confusing.

Sticky notes and labels: Similar to a noticeboard, these act as visual reminders of something you need to do. Many people stick notes on their fridge, as its somewhere they visit regularly. The joy of sticky notes is that you can put them where they’ll work best. For example, stick one on the inside of your front door reminding you to check that you’ve got your keys, money or mobile phone before you leave the house. If you need to do something the next day, stick a note on the bedroom door before you go to bed so you’ll see it first thing next morning.

Calendars and diaries: These are a great way to organise your life in advance. If there’s something you need to do or remember for a particular date, write it on a calendar or in a diary in advance. There are lots of them available with plenty of space to write in, such as an A4 page-a-day diary. Then you only need to remember one thing – to check the calendar or diary every day.

Alarm clocks: Most people use some kind of alarm clock to wake them in the morning, but they can also be set to go off at various times during the day to remind you of other things, such as when it’s time to take medication. Some electric alarm clocks allow you to set multiple alarms throughout the day, or you could just reset the alarm to the next time you need it after each time it goes off.

Smartphone apps: Moving on to more high-tech memory aids now, a smartphone or tablet can perform a range of memory aid tasks. Most come with calendar and diary apps (applications) preloaded and they will also pop up automatically with an audible alert to remind you. There’s also a range of more specialised memory aid apps, many of which are free to download and use. If you’re not ‘tech savvy’, get someone who is to help you search for the best apps, download them and learn how to use them. Most are specifically designed to be easy-to-use once set up on your device.

Locator devices: If you often forget where you put things, like your keys, purse or the TV remote, you can attach a special keyfob to them. Pressing a button on a base handset (always kept in the same place in your home) will cause the keyfob to emit an audible beep, the sound leading you to the location of the misplaced item. Many locator devices come with multiple keyfobs, colour-coded to match corresponding buttons on the base handset. Just make a note of which colour button corresponds to which item and keep it next to the base handset.

Talking memo pens or watches: These devices let you record short verbal messages, so you can record important bits of information, such as a phone number or appointment time, and play them back when you need to remember the details. Incorporating the recorder in a watch or pen means you’re likely to have it with you when you need it. However, most smartphones also have a voice recorder function which you could use in the same way.

GPS route finders (sat nav): If you struggle to remember a route, have no sense of direction or lack confidence in finding somewhere new, these devices will guide you there step-by-step with an on-screen map and audible directions. Commonly used in cars, they can also be used on foot provided the battery is fully charged. Routes and destinations, including ‘home’, can be easily programmed.

Motion sensor reminders: These are devices which detect when you pass by them and play a pre-recorded message as a reminder. For example, you could fix one by the kitchen door so that as you leave the kitchen it ‘asks you’ if you have turned off the cooker or faucet? One by the front door could ask you if you have your wallet or phone with you, of if you’ve locked other doors and windows before going out? They can be customised to suit your personal needs and sited where you need them.

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