Many of us, especially as we reach middle age and beyond, begin to become more forgetful than we once were. For most, this problem is fairly mild, and can be attributed to simple age-related memory loss. For others, the issue may be related to health problems, medications or excessive stress.
In a reasonably small percentage of people, memory decline may be a symptom of a more serious problem, such as mild cognitive decline, early Alzheimer's disease or dementia, or an issue secondary to stroke or physical trauma, particularly head injuries. If you or a loved one are experiencing this issue, seeing a doctor to identify the causes of it is very important.
However, once that is done, no matter the underlying cause, learning to manage memory decline can reduce the frustrating – and in some cases, dangerous – issues it can cause in everyday life.
- Develop a routine. If you tend to forget daily tasks, developing a routine for getting them done every day at the same time and in the same way can help you stay on track, avoiding frustrating and inconvenient omissions.
- Keep a daily checklist. Making a list of what needs to be accomplished each day and checking items off as they are completed can help ensure that you aren't leaving anything out as well as help you remember what you have and haven't done already. This can be especially helpful for people who have trouble remembering whether they have done small, routine tasks, such as taking daily medications.
- Carry a notebook. For people who tend to forget appointments, important dates, or upcoming events, keeping a notebook handy at all times to ensure that these things can be written down immediately can be a great help.
- Use sticky notes liberally. Bright, attention-grabbing sticky notes can help in remembering tasks, appointments, or other details that might otherwise slip through the cracks.
- Use timers. Do you tend to get sidetracked and forget things on the stove? Setting a timer to alert you when food should be attended to can help avoid ruined meals and/or kitchen hazards.
- Avoid multitasking. It is easy to forget important details if you're trying to do three things at once, so focus on completing one task at a time.
- De-clutter and organize. Keeping an organized, clutter-free home and/or work area is important. Developing a habit of putting things in the same place every day reduces those annoying memory-related hassles (searching for misplaced car keys, for instance).
- Use a medication organizer. These handy containers allow medications to be laid out according to the day of the week and the time of day they are to be taken, providing help with memory loss to people who tend to forget what meds need to be taken and when.
- Get enough sleep. Developing healthy sleep habits can be great help for memory loss, since lack of sleep or unpredictable sleep patterns can contribute to forgetfulness. If insomnia or other sleep problems are an issues, seek treatment.
- Manage stress levels. Stress has detrimental effects on short-term memory, so if stress is an issue, taking a stress management class or working with a counselor to identify and address stress triggers can help with memory loss.