Coping with Memory Problems After TBI: Practical Strategies - 1

Posted on July 14, 2020

Memory impairment, particularly short term and ‘working memory’ is one of the most common effects of TBI and ABI.  Brain injury victims are unable to remember names or faces, what they read or what is said to them. New learning is affected while previously learnt skills may be still intact or may need to be relearned. 

Memory issues can destroy a person’s sense of identity and continuity, the inability to remember everyday tasks and how to execute them can hinder their progress towards recovery. It can leave them without a sense of self-worth leading to anxiety, depression and frustration. 

Unfortunately, it is unrealistic to expect the lost function to be regained, but there are ways to make life easier by adapting to an environment and lifestyle to minimize the impact of memory problems. There are five main ways described here to make life easier:

  • Adapting the environment: people with memory problems should note down everything from phone calls to messages, and all essential information must be put up on a noticeboard. Important information and items can also be attached to the person so they can’t be mislaid. Labelling the cupboards, storage jars, doors and deciding a fixed place to keep important items such as keys, wallet, etc., can help so that they have to rely on their memoryless.
  • Using external memory aids: Modern smartphones have programmable diary or calendar applications to remind you of important things and events. Alarm clocks, tape recorders, Dictaphones, electronic organizers, pill reminder boxes for medication, help people with memory issues as they limit the work the brain has to do to remember things.  
  • Following a set routine: people with memory issues must follow a set pattern of daily activities and regular events so that they get used to it and know what to do without relying on memory. Changes in routine are confusing for brain injury victims, and relatives and caretakers must explain and prepare them well in advance if there are any. Regular events can be noted in a diary or calendar, and a chart of regular events using pictures or photos must be put up on a noticeboard.
  • Combing one or more strategies to learn new information: if you want to improve the memory of a person and teach them the way to the local shops, you could describe the way verbally, draw a map and also accompany the person along the route. This information must be repeated and practiced several times and tested immediately after learning. The person must be asked often to repeat the information within short intervals of a few seconds and minutes to aid memory.
  • Sometimes the information that is learnt cannot be reproduced immediately, especially in brain-injured persons. They may experience the ’tip-of-the-tongue’ syndrome and providing a clue, or prompt may prove helpful. Also, it may be a good idea to learn new information in a variety of situations and settings like name of people or things whenever possible.

Not all strategies may work for all TBI persons, and will depend a lot on the individual preference and can be adapted in any way that is suitable. If they enjoy following the routine and techniques, then with a little persistence, many practical problems can be overcome.