5 Easy Memory Boosters

Whether the problem is cognitive impairment or normal aging, try these assists.

By , Caring.com senior editor
finger and a string

Having problems remembering to take pills, buy grocery items, or make appointments? Everyone experiences memory problems sometimes. Memory experts often recommend the following simple aids to people with mild cognitive impairment or early symptoms of dementia. But anybody (including harried caregivers!) who’s ever forgotten something important can benefit.

1. A GPS system

Remembering routes can be challenging, especially if they’re not frequent destinations. And following written directions can be difficult for someone with early dementia, or anyone who doesn’t want to be a distracted driver.

Simple solution: a global positioning (GPS) navigation system in the car. Prices have been dropping since these gizmos were first introduced; you can buy a simple unit for less than $200. Many drivers find it easier to follow verbal instructions than to have to read them. And if you make a mistake, the GPS autocorrects and redirects you.

2. Medication reminders

Medication management is the bane of both caregivers and relatively healthy adults looking after themselves. Fortunately a variety of tools exist to help you remember to dispense, or take, meds on time.

Medical alarms can be programmed to send you an e-mail message or a beep to a special watch. Some pill containers themselves will send visual messages. Learn more about medication management for no more missed pills.

3. A small portable notebook

Not all memory aids are high-tech. The lowly notebook can be a lifesaver when it comes to remembering names, details, and to-do lists. The trick is to have the notebook handy at all times. Very small books (such as Moleskine‘s 2.5 by 4 inch extra-small version) that slip into a pocket or purse work well.

Train yourself to write down everything you don’t want to slip away — the names of those present at a meeting, the sudden thought to call for a haircut appointment, items to pick up at the grocery store on your way home.

The act of writing it down helps to secure a thought in your mind — and if you forget, you can look it up.

4. A don’t-lose basket or shelf

This idea amps up the old adage about “a place for everything.” Dedicate a single basket or box toall key items that are often misplaced: car keys, house key, reading glasses, sunglasses, medications, and anything else used regularly — even cell phone, TV remote, and sweaters. (Note: For someone with dementia, you’d want to store medications out of sight and out of reach, to avoid accidental overdosing.)

5. A centralized household calendar

It’s hard enough to remember your own priorities, let alone everyone else’s. Whether your household contains five people and three generations or just one person and a pet, post an oversized calendar in a central place (such as the kitchen). Use a different colored marker to write down each family member’s appointments, invitations, and travels (or, for a pet, dates with the vet or groomer).

Get in the habit of looking at the calendar every morning and consulting it before you make new appointments. Electronic calendars work well for many people, but for others, they’re “out of sight, out of mind.” A large planner in your line of vision every day is harder to ignore.

Visit http://www.caring.com for more 20 Easy Ways to Boost Your Memory

Study: Brain Fog Linked with Menopause

 
by Patti Singer
 
Women going through menopause have trouble staying focused and keeping track of things, according to a study from a neuropsychologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center.  The study, financed by the National Institute on Aging, is considered pioneering because few studies have targeted women going through the transition. Even less research made cognition its primary aim.

“There is something to memory complaints,” said Miriam Weber, the neuropsychologist whose findings were published in March in the online version of the journal Menopause.

The results of her preliminary study led to questions such as what exactly happens and why during each stage of the transition, and are there times when women are more vulnerable, she said. For now, the findings provide scientific weight to years of anecdotal evidence.

“To any woman who expects herself to function at a certain level, I don’t think this will come as any surprise,” said Maria Sullivan, 52, of Perinton, N.Y., who was not part of the study. “This validates it.”

Since 2005, Weber has been studying cognition in women who are making the transition toward the end of their menstrual periods. In September, she expanded recruitment, but the published results are from a pilot study that concluded in 2009.

Weber’s team studied 75 women ages 40 to 60, comparing their own assessment of their mental sharpness to objective measures of cognitive function. They were asked about menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, anxiety, sleep disturbances and depression. Blood tests measured levels of two hormones related to menopause. The results showed that complaints about memory were related to the ability to think on the fly and to tasks that required close attention.

“The more complaints they had, the worse they did on those two tasks,” Weber said.

She said researchers also saw a link between memory complaints and depression.

Women who go into a room and forget why, or who can’t find their keys fear that they are in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, Weber said. Instead, the women might not be fully concentrating on the task so the information can be stored and retrieved later.

For women like Sullivan, that was more good news.

“To hear that everybody goes through this, this isn’t a harbinger of things to come. It’s reassuring to see this is not the beginning of early onset something,” Sullivan said.

At the same time, “it would be nice to know if there would be an upswing when this passes.”

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

‘BRAIN FOG’ OF MENOPAUSE CONFIRMED

Scienceblog.com – The difficulties that many women describe as memory problems when menopause approaches are real, according to a study published today in the journal Menopause, the journal of the North American Menopause Society.

The findings won’t come as a surprise to the millions of women who have had bouts of forgetfulness or who describe struggles with “brain fog” in their late 40s and 50s. But the results of the study, by scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center and the University of Illinois at Chicago who gave women a rigorous battery of cognitive tests, validate their experiences and provide some clues to what is happening in the brain as women hit menopause.

“The most important thing to realize is that there really are some cognitive changes that occur during this phase in a woman’s life,” said Miriam Weber, Ph.D., the neuropsychologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center who led the study. “If a woman approaching menopause feels she is having memory problems, no one should brush it off or attribute it to a jam-packed schedule. She can find comfort in knowing that there are new research findings that support her experience. She can view her experience as normal.”

The study is one of only a handful to analyze in detail a woman’s brain function during menopause and to compare those findings to the woman’s own reports of memory or cognitive difficulties.

The study included 75 women, from age 40 to 60, who were approaching or beginning menopause. The women underwent a battery of cognitive tests that looked at several skills, including their abilities to learn and retain new information, to mentally manipulate new information, and to sustain their attention over time. They were asked about menopausesymptoms related to depression, anxiety, hot flashes, and sleep difficulties, and their blood levels of the hormones estradiol and follicle-stimulating hormone were measured.

Weber’s team found that the women’s complaints were linked to some types of memory deficits, but not others.

Women who had memory complaints were much more likely to do poorly in tests designed to measure what is called “working memory” – the ability to take in new information and manipulate it in their heads. Such tasks in real life might include calculating the amount of a tip after a restaurant meal, adding up a series of numbers in one’s head, or adjusting one’s itinerary on the fly after an unexpected flight change.

Scientists also found that the women’s reports of memory difficulties were associated with a lessened ability to keep and focus attention on a challenging task. That might include doing thetaxes, maintaining sharp attention on the road during a long drive, completing a difficult report at work despite boredom, or getting through a particularly challenging book.

Weber notes that such cognitive processes aren’t what typically come to mind when people think of “memory.” Oftentimes, people consider memory to be the ability to tuck away a piece of information, such as a grocery item you need to remember to buy, and to retrieve it later. The team found little evidence that women have problems with this ability. Weber notes, though, that the 75 women in the study were more highly educated and on average of higher intelligence thanthe general population, and a decline might have been difficult to detect.

Women who reported memory difficulties were also more likely to report symptoms of depression,anxiety, and sleep difficulties. The team did not find any link between memory problems andhormone levels.

Generally anywhere from one-third to two-thirds of women during this stage of life reportforgetfulness and other difficulties that they view as related to poor memory.

“If you speak with middle-aged women, many will say, yes, we’ve known this. We’ve experienced this,” said Weber, assistant professor of Neurology. “But it hasn’t been investigated thoroughly in the scientific literature.

“Science is finally catching up to the reality that women don’t suddenly go from their reproductive prime to becoming infertile. There is this whole transition period that lasts years. It’s more complicated than people have realized.”

“People are surprised to learn that typically, for example in elderly adults, there really isn’t a lot of evidence that memory complaints are tied to real memory deficits. Menopausal women are different. They are good at rating their memory skills,” added co-author Pauline Maki, Ph.D.,director of Women’s Mental Health Research in UIC’s Department of Psychiatry.

“We don’t know why but perhaps it’s because their memory changes are more sudden and they are aware of other changes that accompany the menopause, like hot flashes. This might help them to better assess their mental abilities,” Maki added.

The latest findings are in line with results from a previous study that Weber did with Mark Mapstone, Ph.D., associate professor of Neurology, as well as results from a study which involved hundreds of women but used less sensitive measures to look at cognitive performance.

“There really is something going on in the brain of a woman at this stage in her life,” Mapstone said. “There is substance to their complaints that their memory is a bit fuzzy.”

For women who feel they are having memory problems, Weber has some advice.

“When someone gives you a new piece of information, it might be helpful to repeat it out loud, or for you to say it back to the person to confirm it – it will help you hold onto that information longer,” Weber said. “Make sure you have established that memory solidly in the brain.

“You need to do a little more work to make sure the information gets into your brain permanently. It may help to realize that you shouldn’t expect to be able to remember everything after hearing it just once.”

Health project coordinator Jennifer Staskiewicz, now of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Rochester Medical Center, also contributed to the study, which was funded by the National Institute on Aging.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

Author and friend, Idelle Davidson speaks extensively about brain fog in her book.  No one believed she was going through it after chemo. Then, lo’ and behold, the medical community confirmed that it did indeed exist, and she was not going crazy. In fact, she’s super intelligent.  The book is a great read to even understand what people go through upon a diagnosis, during and after.

http://www.amazon.com/Your-Brain-after-Chemo-Practical/dp/0738212598

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

I post a lot about healthy foods for your brain.  Be sure to check those posts out as I believe good nutrition can counter symptoms.  Knowing you’re not going crazy helps too.  More information at links below.

Stay healthy!

Related articles

10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s by Alzheimer’s Association®

10 warning signs of Alzheimer’s:

Memory loss that disrupts daily life
One of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s is memory loss, especially forgetting recently learned information. Others include forgetting important dates or events; asking for the same information over and over; relying on memory aides (e.g., reminder notes or electronic devices) or family members for things they used to handle on their own.

What’s a typical age-related change? Sometimes forgetting names or appointments, but remembering them later.
Challenges in planning or solving problems
Some people may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers. They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. They may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before.

What’s a typical age-related change? Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook.
Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
People with Alzheimer’s often find it hard to complete daily tasks. Sometimes, people may have trouble driving to a familiar location, managing a budget at work or remembering the rules of a favorite game.

What’s a typical age-related change? Occasionally needing help to use the settings on a microwave or to record a
television show.

 

Confusion with time or place
People with Alzheimer’s can lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time. They may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately. Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there.

What’s a typical age-related change? Getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later.
Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
For some people, having vision problems is a sign of Alzheimer’s. They may have difficulty reading, judging distance and determining color or contrast. In terms of perception, they may pass a mirror and think someone else is in the room. They may not realize they are the person in the mirror.

What’s a typical age-related change? Vision changes related to
cataracts.

 

New problems with words in speaking or writing
People with Alzheimer’s may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves. They may struggle with vocabulary, have problems finding the right word or call things by the wrong name (e.g., calling a “watch” a “hand-clock”).

What’s a typical age-related change? Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.

 

Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
A person with Alzheimer’s disease may put things in unusual places. They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. Sometimes, they may accuse others of stealing. This may occur more frequently over time.

What’s a typical age-related change? Misplacing things from time to time, such as a pair of glasses or the remote control.

 

Decreased or poor judgment
People with Alzheimer’s may experience changes in judgment or decision-making. For example, they may use poor judgment when dealing with money, giving large amounts to telemarketers. They may pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean.

What’s a typical age-related change? Making a bad decision once in a while.
Withdrawal from work or social activities
A person with Alzheimer’s may start to remove themselves from hobbies, social activities, work projects or sports. They may have trouble keeping up with a favorite sports team or remembering how to complete a favorite hobby. They may also avoid being social because of the changes they have experienced.

What’s a typical age-related change? Sometimes feeling weary of work, family and social obligations.
Changes in mood and personality
The mood and personalities of people with Alzheimer’s can change. They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. They may be easily upset at home, at work, with friends or in places where they are out of their comfort zone.

What’s a typical age-related change? Developing very specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted.

Copyright © 2009 Alzheimer’s Association®. All rights reserved.

 

“I feel like I have Alzheimer’s whenever I read this list.  If I’m forgetting, how will I remember what is on the list?  There’s THAT.  Seriously, it’s a fantastic list. Watch out for yourself, but look out for your parents or elders too.” There is a wealth of information available at the Alzheimer’s Association® and more information for you below.” ~MD


Typical age-related memory loss and other changes compared to Alzheimer’s

Signs of Alzheimer’s

Typical age-related changes

Poor judgment and decision making Making a bad decision once in a while
Inability to manage a budget Missing a monthly payment
Losing track of the date or the season Forgetting which day it is and remembering later
Difficulty having a conversation Sometimes forgetting which word to use
Misplacing things and being unable to retrace steps to find them Losing things from time to time

What to do if you notice these signs

“It took my mother having a stress-related heart attack before we quit dismissing my father’s progressing dementia to ‘senior moments’ and got him a proper diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. Had we paid attention to the warning signs of this disease, a lot of prevention could have been in place.”
-Brent

If you notice any of the 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s in yourself or someone you know, don’t ignore them. Schedule an appointment with your doctor.

With early detection, you can:

Get the maximum benefit from available treatments – You can explore treatments that may provide some relief of symptoms and help you maintain a level of independence longer. You may also increase your chances of participating in clinical drug trials that help advance research.
Learn more about treatments.
Learn more about clinical studies.

Have more time to plan for the future  A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s allows you to take part in decisions about care, transportation, living options, financial and legal matters. You can also participate in building the right care team and social support network.
Learn more about planning ahead.

Help for you and your loved ones – Care and support services are available, making it easier for you and your family to live the best life possible with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Learn how the Alzheimer’s Association helps families.

Additional information:

When you see your doctor

Your doctor will evaluate your overall health and identify any conditions that could affect how well your mind is working. Your doctor may refer you to a specialist such as a:

  • Neurologist – specializes in diseases of the brain and nervous system
  • Psychiatrist – specializes in disorders that affect mood or the way the mind works
  • Psychologist – has special training in testing memory and other mental functions
  • Geriatrician – specializes in the care of older adults and Alzheimer’s disease

Learn more about diagnosing Alzheimer’s.

For your doctor’s visit, 10 Warning Signs Checklist

Download our free 10 Warning Signs Checklist and list any concerns you have. Take this sheet with you to the doctor.

Know the 10 signs is also available in these languages:
Spanish
Chinese
Korean
Vietnamese