8 Tips for Coping with Memory Loss

Memory lapses are a normal part of aging. You can’t remember the name of the book you’re reading, you blank on your friend’s name, you arrive at the grocery store only to forget why you came. Physiological changes, such as slowed hormones to the brain, naturally make recall more difficult.

If memory issues are making your life more challenging, these tips can help.

#1 Make lists and reminders. Sticky notes can become a great ally in dealing with memory loss. Use them to make to-do lists or reminders to post in obvious places. “Go to clinic at 3 p.m.” “Do laundry today.” You can also use them to label cupboards and storage containers or to write your telephone number next to your phone in case you need to leave a message for someone. The lists and labels are important because they’ll reduce stress—which can cause or worsen memory problems.

#2 Establish a place for your keys. Put your keys in the same place (near the door is helpful) every time you return home. You can use the same spot to place items you need to take with you, such as your wallet or cell phone. Along those lines, you may want to consider a cord for your reading glasses. Virtually everyone misplaces those at times.

#3 Organize medications. Use pillboxes that not only divide medications by day of the week but also time of day if needed. Be sure to keep your pills in the same place all the time. Then use alarms on your phone, oven or a simple alarm clock to remind you to take your next dose. If you worry you won’t remember what the alarm is for, use a sticky note.

#4 Develop new habits at home. If you are having more significant memory challenges, consider cooking in a microwave oven or setting the auto shutoff on your oven. And if you cook on the stovetop, don’t leave the room. You might forget you’re cooking and start a fire. The same goes for running water. If you’re filling a bathtub, don’t leave the room. As much as you don’t want to start a fire, you also don’t want to flood your home.

#5 Exercise your brain. Think of your brain as a muscle that needs to be exercised in order to maintain strength. Play chess, bridge, Sudoku or word games. Do crossword puzzles and continue learning.

#6 Take care of yourself. You know the drill: don’t smoke, limit alcohol intake (no more than two drinks per day), eat a healthy diet, exercise and get the sleep you need. Now live it.

#7 Stay social. Stress and depression worsen memory problems; staying social helps ward off both.

#8 See your doctor. If you have difficulty performing simple tasks or those you’ve done many times before, get lost or disoriented in familiar places, find people saying that you’re repeating the same phrases and stories, you may have some mild impairment. See a doctor any time your memory causes concern for you or others. Memory loss may be due to thyroid issues, medications you’re taking or nutritional deficiencies—many of which are reversible. Your doctor can also help you slow your decline and improve your quality of life.