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Techniques and Strategies to Make the Most of Existing Memory After TBI by Charles Watson


Posted on June 19, 2020

Memory problems are very common in people with moderate to severe TBI because the part of the brain that handles learning and remembering is damaged. Short term memory loss is usually affected, like trouble learning and remembering new information, day to day happenings and recent events. Memories of the past may, however, be intact, including what was learnt in school.  People with TBI may not remember the injury itself because the brain did not store those memories. 

For us to be able to remember something, we must get the information into memory first before it can be stored away. This becomes really difficult after a brain injury because the person has problems with attention and concentration.

However, some simple rules to be followed when giving information to people with memory impairment are:

  • Focus on the relevant info that needs to be remembered cutting down the details
  • Give written instructions and simplify info
  • Divide the info into small chunks and give one at a time following the little and often rule
  • Encourage the person to understand the info, repeat it in their own words, and to make associations of linking the new info with something more familiar to them
  • Choose a good time to practice when the person is attentive and ready

Although there is no way of restoring lost memory capabilities, there are techniques that can make getting information into memory more efficiently. These are errorless learning, mnemonics and PQRST.

Errorless learning: People with an injured brain tend to make the same mistakes over and over again, which can be really frustrating. Therefore, it is important that no mistakes are made when teaching them new information. An effective way to do this is to guide the person several times and then gradually decrease the amount of help given. 

Errorless learning is a difficult technique and requires working with a trained professional such as a neuropsychologist. It requires adjusting expectations, making sure the person completely understands what is expected of them, working together on the task. Make the task do-able and repeat several times, providing cues, when necessary. 

Mnemonics: these are visual and verbal aids to learning such as rhymes, sayings or drawings to learn new information.  It can be rhymes as in names of the month, or the planets in the universe or continents of the world and so on. VIBGYOR is a mnemonic for colors in a rainbow. Mnemonics can be especially useful for students to remember and memorize information. These can be designed by carers and family members. Use mnemonics to teach specific information as in people’s name or address. Ultimately, it will depend on the individual with brain impairment if he like the strategy and is able to grasp the concept.

PQRST: this is a way to remember something you’re reading, such as a newspaper article. PQRST stands for

  • Preview- scanning the info to get a general idea
  • Question- write down questions that you may want to be able to answer after reading it
  • Read- now read the data closely
  • State- repeat the main points to yourself stating them in summary form
  • Test: See if you can answer the questions you wrote down earlier as a test of your knowledge