Memory Loss and Practical Tips to Improve Memory

By: Sheila Kun RN, BA, BSN, MS

In most of my adult life, remembering names is a difficult task for me. When I was a young nurse, I was able to remember the names of the patients when I saw them in person. I would say once I turned fifty, my memory of names became acutely worse. I would bump into patients and their families in the hallway. The parents would greet me and asked how I was doing. That was when my nightmare began; I knew they were my patients and families, but I did not remember their names. In response to the parents’ greetings, my only rescue strategy was to say: “How is your little one doing?”. Most of the parents would come to the rescue and say something like: “Johnny is doing very well, he is in third grade now.” As I said, my memory of names got worsened over the years. I was concerned whether this is normal aging process or dementia?

According to the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives, occasional forgetfulness is a perfectly normal part of life. Certain types of memory slips, such as names or where we parked the car, are common even among the young. In fact, in young and old alike, stress, sleep problems, certain prescription medicines, and depression are associated with memory difficulties. On the other hand, memory problems that significantly impair day-to-day functioning are cause for concern and should be evaluated by a medical professional. (From The Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives, Answering Your Questions About Brain Research Q&A).

I was relieved to learn about the above explanation on memory loss. Now that I am retired at age seventy-five, I am concerned that there will be less stimulation from sitting at home and my brain is not put in good use. Hence, I decided to improve my memory by taking an app called Duoling and take up Spanish every day. Today is my 118th day streak of learning Spanish for over an hour each day. I found I could retain this new language without difficulty. As a matter of fact, sometimes when I am in a supermarket or restaurant, I would order in Spanish. I used to dream of patients’ problems, now I am struggling on the grammar and whether that word is masculine or feminine in Spanish. I think this is a good sign in spite of my deficit in remembering names.

My other practical tips to improve memory is to make sure that I have a certain routine and sequence. For example, I would brush my teeth and immediately I follow with taking my morning medication. I put my key and rosary in the same spot. Yes, glasses are another problem – I remove them for reading and often times I found myself looking for them. Now I develop a habit of hanging them to my collar when I remove them so that I don’t have to remember whether they are at the table or on the sofa.

I heard exercise is an integral part of our overall health and therefore keeping myself active is another strategy to exercise the brain. I am not familiar with the actual cause and effect of how exercise helps with memory. Perhaps I should do a mini research into the topic and report to you next week.

Your homework from the Care Ministry this week: do a quick check and see if you have memory issues.

look for healthy menu items.

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