CEMM Virtual Library

The Caregiver's Journey

Memory

Memory problems happen often after a TBI. Past memories or long-term memory is nearly always intact. Recent memory, called short-term memory, is much more often affected.

Short-term memory often gets worse as fatigue increases. Short-term memory usually improves over time.

Memory compensation means learning to use memory tools, such as a calendar, planner, organizer, or memory notebook. Signs with instructions, lists, and notes are other effective memory compensation tools.

Ask the health care team about which memory tools would be helpful for your family member. These tools may also help you remember everything you need to do!

What you might see:

  • Can’t remember information from day to day about people, conversations, places, events, appointments, dates, and telephone numbers
  • Keys, wallet, etc. are frequently lost or misplaced 
  • Repeating questions or the same story over and over again 
  • Can’t learn new information and use it in everyday life

How you can help:

  • Get the person’s attention when you are trying to teach, do, or discuss something.
  • Break new information down into categories or “chunks.” List and review them in order.
  • Set up a routine of daily tasks and follow it.
  • Help your family member use memory aids on a regular basis. Write down tasks on a calendar or notebook. Check tasks off when done.
  • Explore use of high-tech memory aids. Personal digital assistants (PDA), wristwatch alarms, and cell phones can remind your family member when to do a task, such as taking medication. Before spending money on these devices, ask the OT or speech pathologist whether your family member can learn to use the technology.
  • Buy a pillbox and label each compartment with the time and day that medication should be taken. Write the names of medications and when to take them into the calendar/memory notebook.
  • Keep personal and household items in the same place.
  • Try to pair new information with things the person is able to recall.
  • Provide verbal cues for recall and help fill in memory gaps.
  • Talk to your service member/veteran about the activities and events of the day to help build memory.
  • Have your service member/veteran review plans for the following day. 
  • Learn and use a cueing system.
  • Present information in more than one way, including hearing, seeing, and doing. Each person has a different learning style. Ask the neuropsychologist how your family member learns best.
  • Role play in order to reinforce new learning.

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