Memory Aids and Strategies for Cognitive Impairment

In many adult rehab settings, you will encounter patients with cognitive impairments resulting in decreased memory. This of course affects quality of life and provides everyday challenges for the patient and their caregivers.

Thankfully, as an OT, you’re well-equipped to address this.

This post shares my favorite memory aids for cognitive impairments that will help make day to day life easier for patients and their caregivers.

These assistive devices, while not meant to treat but to aid in compensating, are versatile and used for many diagnoses affecting cognition.

This includes early to middle stage dementia, cognitive deficits caused by traumatic brain injuries, strokes, or other neurological illness or injury.

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Digital Calendar/Day Clock with Non-Abbreviated Day & Month

This calendar is great for individuals with decreased orientation to day/time and who need cues. I really like that it states the time of day and spells out the month, plus it has the time/day in large print. It also has an alarm function that allows for 3 daily alarms which can be useful for meal or medication reminders.

Medication Reminder and Dispenser

For individuals needing more assistance with medication reminders, medication dispensers with alarms not only dispense the medications but have alarms to remind users when it’s time to take meds. There are basic alarms that can be set for routine times, as well as more advanced options.

Dry-Erase Weekly Refrigerator Planner

A planner like this one is great to jot down upcoming doctor’s appointments, outings, therapy visits, etc. When posted on the refrigerator, it’s easy to access and have as a daily visual reminder. I personally use a monthly dry erase calendar and write down everything I have going on for the month. I don’t know how I’d survive without it, along with my phone calendar.

Amplified Photo Phone

One of most critical ways for someone to stay connected with family is by phone. This amplified photo phone is great for individuals with difficulty using standard phones or cell phones. It has 9 large programmable photo memory buttons that the user simply presses to dial that person. The phone also has a bright visual ring indicator to visually cue the person when it is ringing.

Tile Mate Item Finder

The Tile Mate is a great accessory for users with an iPhone. It uses Bluetooth technology to track anything that the user attaches it to. This could be things like keys, phone, wallet, or anything else that’s often misplaced. If the user’s phone is misplaced, the Tile can make the phone ring even when on silent.

Voice Recorder

Using a voice recorder is a great way to record memories and experiences as well as important reminders. For those who may not have enough time for journaling, it is a quick and easy way to record anything of importance.

A Memory Book

For individuals with more significant cognitive impairments, creating a memory book is another strategy to aid in the individual’s recovery from their memory impairment. The book can include their name, pictures of them, their family, their friends, pets and experiences meaningful to them. Here is an actual example of a memory book to model off of from BrainInjuryPeerVisitor.org.

Smart Phone Assistive Apps

Smartphones come with an assortment of assistive apps that can be very useful for individuals with cognitive impairment. Most phones now include reminders, alarms, in-phone calendar, GPS, and a built-in notepad. Other downloadable assistive apps include the In Case of Emergency app and the Where Am I app. For more great apps, check out the full list from Brainline.org.

Additional Strategies 

Along with using these items as needed, you can also incorporate additional strategies as applicable. These include:

  • Keeping commonly used items in the same location every day
  • Following a similar routine every day, i.e. completing tasks the same time each day
  • Writing in a journal daily for not only important things but also writing down fun experiences or thoughts that can be returned to
  • Keeping a notepad by the phone to write down important information
  • Labeling common areas such as closets, kitchen cabinets, medicine cabinets to identify where things are located

For even more strategies to work on with your patient demonstrating memory impairment, be sure to check out this article from Headway: The Brain Injury Association.

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What are your favorite memory aids or strategies that you recommend for your patients? Please share in the comments below!

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