Late effects: Improving your memory
Many people experience forgetfulness as they age or after they have had chemotherapy treatments. Often, this is mild, but can still be frustrating. Names go, car keys are lost, or items on a shopping list are forgotten.
Tips for improving your memory
Concentrate when you are introduced to someone new. Repeat the name out loud or to yourself and try to associate it with something about the person that stands out (such as elegant Ellen, tall Tom).
You might then introduce that person to someone else, to reinforce your memory of the name.
Mneumonics are memory aids. For many, early spelling lessons included “i before e, except after ‘c’”.
To remember that dessert has two s’s, you can think that it has two because most people want two helpings of dessert!
Most of us remember the days in a month by saying “30 days hath September, April, June, and November.”
With practice, you’ll be able to use your own mnemonics to remember things that are important to you, but that you often forget. Start by creating one for a number you frequently look up.
Do you forget a phone number by the time you cross the room to call it? Group the numbers into chunks, then think of the chunks instead of the entire number. It’s easier to remember 725 and 3591, than 7253591.
For example, visualise what you did when you last remember having something you are looking for - “I came into the house, hung up my coat, and began to go through the mail.”
You know you had your briefcase with you when you came into the house. Did you put it in the cupboard when you hung up your coat? Did you put it in the room where you looked at the mail?
When you get directions, try to create a visual image of the landmarks. A large red building on the corner makes it easy to find the right street.
Decide where to keep your keys (whether in your purse or your house) and always put them there when you finish using them:
- Don’t simply put your keys in your purse - put them in a specific place in your purse, so that you can find them without looking
- Don’t put your keys in the kitchen - put them in a specific location in the kitchen
Do chores in the same order everyday. For example, put yesterday’s newspapers in the recycle bin on your way out first thing in the morning.
Keep a list of items you have run out of and add to it as you use the last of something.
Write the location of your car in the car park on the parking ticket. If you always do these things, they’ll become habit and you won’t have to remember them.
If you will be attending a social event and are worried that you won’t remember the names of people you have already met, ask your hostess for the guest list.
Visualise the people who will be going. Confirm someone’s appearance with the hostess if you are unsure. “Is Shelly your friend who has red hair?”
Challenge your mind
This is a long-term commitment to enhancing your memory and your ability to think and reason. Take up a new hobby, learn a foreign language, or take a course. Card games, such as bridge, and board games such as Scrabble® can stimulate memory. Puzzles such as crosswords or Sudoku may also be of benefit.
Write it down
Keep a calendar with all your appointments and social engagements. Write down the name of the book a friend recommended. Make a list of chores and errands to do on the weekend.
Review your diet
Are you eating a balanced diet? Keep a record of what you eat for a week or so and ask your doctor to review it with you. You may not be getting enough proteins, vitamins, and minerals.
Alcohol can interfere with short-term memory. Ask your doctor if the amount you regularly drink could impact your memory. If you find that you don’t remember what happened after you have had some drinks, consider eliminating alcohol altogether.
Get your rest
If you have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep, or if your sleep doesn’t leave you feeling rested, speak to your doctor about possible solutions.
Review your medications
Some medicines can cause or aggravate forgetfulness. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if any of the medicines you are taking can have this side effect.
Late Effects Clinic
We care for and treat people who have ongoing health problems caused by cancer or cancer treatment.