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Memory Tips

5 Easy Memory Aids That Can Help Anyone

By , Caring.com senior editor
98% helpful
finger and a string

Having problems remembering to take pills, buy grocery items, or make appointments? Everyone experiences memory problems sometimes. Memory experts often recommend the following simple aids to people with mild cognitive impairment or early symptoms of dementia. But anybody (including harried caregivers!) who's ever forgotten something important can benefit.

1. A GPS system

Remembering routes can be challenging, especially if they're not frequent destinations. And following written directions can be difficult for someone with early dementia, or anyone who doesn't want to be a distracted driver.

Simple solution: a global positioning (GPS) navigation system in the car. Prices have been dropping since these gizmos were first introduced; you can buy a simple unit for less than $200. Many drivers find it easier to follow verbal instructions than to have to read them. And if you make a mistake, the GPS autocorrects and redirects you.

2. Medication reminders

Medication management is the bane of both caregivers and relatively healthy adults looking after themselves. Fortunately a variety of tools exist to help you remember to dispense, or take, meds on time.

Medical alarms can be programmed to send you an e-mail message or a beep to a special watch. Some pill containers themselves will send visual messages. Learn more about medication management for no more missed pills.

3. A small portable notebook

Not all memory aids are high-tech. The lowly notebook can be a lifesaver when it comes to remembering names, details, and to-do lists. The trick is to have the notebook handy at all times. Very small books (such as Moleskine's 2.5 by 4 inch extra-small version) that slip into a pocket or purse work well.

Train yourself to write down everything you don't want to slip away -- the names of those present at a meeting, the sudden thought to call for a haircut appointment, items to pick up at the grocery store on your way home.

The act of writing it down helps to secure a thought in your mind -- and if you forget, you can look it up.

4. A don't-lose basket or shelf

This idea amps up the old adage about "a place for everything." Dedicate a single basket or box to all key items that are often misplaced: car keys, house key, reading glasses, sunglasses, medications, and anything else used regularly -- even cell phone, TV remote, and sweaters. (Note: For someone with dementia, you'd want to store medications out of sight and out of reach, to avoid accidental overdosing.)

5. A centralized household calendar

It's hard enough to remember your own priorities, let alone everyone else's. Whether your household contains five people and three generations or just one person and a pet, post an oversized calendar in a central place (such as the kitchen). Use a different colored marker to write down each family member's appointments, invitations, and travels (or, for a pet, dates with the vet or groomer).

Get in the habit of looking at the calendar every morning and consulting it before you make new appointments. Electronic calendars work well for many people, but for others, they're "out of sight, out of mind." A large planner in your line of vision every day is harder to ignore.