Memory loss after a stroke is caused by a loss of nerve cells in the brain. The side of the brain where the stroke took place will determine how the memory is affected. This loss can make remembering new information or sequences of events difficult. Memory loss can also be caused by Alzheimer’s or Dementia, or as a natural part of aging.
There are three common types of memory loss after a stroke that cause difficulty when trying to remember verbal, visual, or informational details. It can be difficult when struggling to recall information you once knew, but there are tips and tools available that can help.
Tips and Tools to Help You Recover from Memory Loss
Verbal Memory Loss: Difficulty recalling names, stories, and other information dealing with language
Visual Memory Loss: Difficulty remembering shapes, faces, routes and things seen
Informational Memory Loss: Difficulty learning new skills or remembering how to perform activities
This type of memory loss makes it difficult to recall information that deals with language. For example, you might not remember the names of friends, family members, or celebrities. It can make telling stories about past events harder too.
Rehearsal, repeating things over and over to yourself, can help you remember them. After meeting someone, you can repeat their name aloud “Elizabeth, Elizabeth, Elizabeth” to help it stick better in your head. Another technique is to associate it with something else, so you could picture the Elizabeth you’ve met but imagine her dressed like Queen Elizabeth II.
Practice is the key here. You could use photo cue cards as flashcards to practice the recalling the names of everyday objects. Add photos of your family members to the mix to help remember their names or relationships to you (ie Sarah, sister). Label them on the back or ask someone to do it for you, so you can peek if you get stuck.
If it’s hard to remember stories, try making it into a game. This will make it less stressful. You could start a family story and let someone else jump in when you can’t remember what happens next. After a while, they can pause and let someone else continue so everyone gets a turn. Another game that works on remember past events is Reminiscence Bingo. It uses everyday topics instead of numbers to combine social interaction and the recollection of past events.
It can be frustrating when you think of something and can’t remember what it’s called. A sense of playfulness can make your experience a little more fun, like a game of verbal charades, “A really big yellow car” “A taxi?” “Children ride in it” “A school bus!”.
The second form of memory loss makes it challenging to remember things that you’ve seen. You might find your typical routes perplexing and get lost even in familiar areas like your neighborhood. Visual memory loss can also negatively affect your recollection of shapes and faces.
It can be dangerous if you get lost while walking your dog around the block, but that doesn’t mean you need to give up on your walks. Sometimes adapting lets you continue to enjoy the same activities you did before your stroke. Instead of taking the walk by yourself, gather a group or neighbors or ask your spouse to come along. You might even discover that it’s more fun with other people.
Creating a photo album can be another helpful tool. You could label who is in each photo and look over them to re-learn faces and boost your memory.
Once again, games can make working on your memory seem like less work. Memory games where you match two of the same images challenge your visual memory. If you don’t have that game, you could gather a group of objects, study them for a few minutes, then face the opposite way and try to write them down in a list. Make the game easier or harder by varying the number of objects, the amount of time you study them, or how long you wait before starting your list.
This type makes impacts your memory making it difficult to remember how to learn new skills or perform activities. Everyday activities like getting dressed or making a cup of coffee may become puzzling.
Sometimes the skills need to be re-learned. An occupational therapist can give you tips and help you work on everyday skills, like learning how to eat independently. Between sessions, you can work on the same skill on your own with informational memory training products. Practice how to dress yourself with a Fastener Cloth to work on buttoning buttons, zipping zippers, closing snaps and tying laces. Mastering these tasks can increase your independence and confidence.
Is it the steps and not the skills that are making it difficult? Some common issues caused by memory loss can be resolved by using reminders. Write down the steps to making a cup of coffee, so you can follow a list. You can put important reminders on sticky notes so you’re sure to find them. If the stroke has made writing too hard, you could use a Voice Cue instead. Record the steps or have a loved one do it for you, and then it can repeat them at preset times.
Is memory loss affecting your daily routine? You might have difficulty remembering to take your daily meds or where you’ve misplaced your house keys or phone. A medication organizer with an alarm and a object locator can help you maintain your routine. These tools and creating a daily checklist can aid you during everyday life.
Keep things simple and stick to a routine. You can post it in a common area so you can see what’s next. Don’t be afraid to write things down so you remember them later and ask for help if you need it. Be patient with yourself, improving your memory can take time.
Brain training exercises can help improve memory and give the brain a workout. These mental exercises can include puzzles, sudoku, Cognitive Tasks Workbooks, or crossword puzzles. Keep your mind active and strengthen existing memory skills with Thinking Cards that engage your brain in memory, music, and word activities.
It can be difficult to cope after a stroke, but with these tools, at-home independence is still a possibility, even when memory loss occurs. Experiment with these helpful tips to find the ones that work best for you to boost your memory and compensate for any difficulties.
Novitzke, J., RN. (2008, October). Privation of Memory: What can be done to help stroke patients remember? Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2tbQ7UP
Medical Disclaimer: The information provided on this site, including text, graphics, images and other material, are for informational purposes only and are not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other healthcare professional with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.