Written by Luciana Mitzkun, Friendship Center Family Services Director
It is difficult to keep track of day-to-day events, news, appointments, and health care needs. Even more so when you are experiencing memory loss.
Most people in this position become copious note-takers. They write all pieces of information they find important on pieces of paper, sticky notes, calendars, and bulletin boards. Some use computers or smartphones to keep their notes. Some go to even more extreme measures to keep important information handy, such as tattooing emergency phone numbers to their arms.
Taking detailed notes is an essential method for keeping track of daily information when your own memory is compromised. Your notes can enhance your ability to retain information, follow-up with important appointments, and retrieve information as needed. Notes serve as a memory assistant, allowing you to expand your memory capacity and possibly minimize frustration related to memory loss.
Notes are so important for living well with memory loss that you should start it right now, even if you haven’t yet considered your next step in treatment and self care. Your notes will be your memory auxiliary.
As you start your note-taking, consider two most valuable guidelines: simplicity and consistency.
Keep it Simple
Use a simple one-piece, binded notebook to keep all the important information in a single place. Avoid sticky notes and individual pieces of paper. They can get lost and disorganized, creating more confusion instead of helping. Computers and smartphones are great for recording information (obviously) but may not be available to you at all times: batteries run out, software have glitches, and it is not always easy to keep up with the constant technology changes. A notebook may be a simple device, but far more reliable for what you need.
Find a small book that can be effortlessly taken around with you, but is not so small that can easily disappear within the foldings of a couch. A standard 9″ x 7″ Composition Notebook, (available at Staples) is a great and inexpensive option.
Consider protecting your notebook from getting lost with a smart tracking device, such as Tile Mate (available at Amazon.) These easy to use devices can be attached to its cover and used to locate it through an app or computer. Select a device with a long battery life (one year or longer).
Write down EVERYTHING you wish to remember later, no matter how trivial. Your notebook will become your reliable journal, written with your own handwriting, in a sequential order that you can always revisit as needed. One piece with all the information you collect: Your journal.
Use it Consistently
Keep it with you at all times. Your journal is your auxiliary memory: don’t leave home without it. Take it with you to appointments, dinners, movies, church, classes, and grocery store. Your journal should become an extension of yourself.
Start every new day by recording the date. Write on it all that you wish to remember at a later date: appointments, meetings, places you’ve visited, names of people you meet, shopping lists, movies you’ve watched, and contacts information. Use it to record all your activities as well as conversations with friends, doctors, and other professionals. There is no limit or rules to what you can record in your notebook. Write all you want: From notes on important discussion with your lawyer to a funny joke you hear and want to retell later.
Review your notes at the end of every day, before going to bed. You may want to use a yellow marker to highlight the most important information of the day. This will help you better retain the information as your brain works to store it while you sleep. Also, review the entire week at its end, which will further help you retain the important information.
When the pages of your notebook are completed, continue your journaling on a new notebook. Number them sequentially and keep the previous journals handy: there may be a need to revisit then later.
Do not underestimate the importance of your journal: it will be your best tool to overcome memory loss, reduce memory lapses incidence, and maintain your independence.
Start your journal today.