Favorite Memory Aids for People With Early Memory Loss

Someone who's experiencing loss of short-term memory can stress less by minimizing the sheer number of things needed to remember in a given day. Several simple tools can help you and your loved one in this way:

  • Written notes and reminders. Send reminders by e-mail or leave them on the counter. Place a list of favorite cable channel numbers (like you see in hotels) next to the remote. Post a prominent written calendar in addition to relying on electronic formats. Family members often worry that leaving notes will seem insulting. But these reminders help those who are struggling with memory problems to relax because they don't have to work so hard to stay on top of things.

  • Lots of easy-to-read clocks. Try placing one in every room, either a digital clock or an analog type where the numerals are all included. Ideal: a digital clock that displays both the date and the time.

  • A large central calendar. Encourage your loved one to cross off the date each night before bed. Attach a pen or marker to the calendar, so there's no hunting for one. Mark key events, even regular ones like trash day or the days that bills are due.

  • Pillbox and cue card. In addition to using a pillbox that organizes medications by day (or by morning and evening), attach a cue card to the box that reminds your loved one how the meds are to be taken: Take all at once with water, for example.

  • Day-by-day pocket diary. Many people with early-stage memory loss find it helpful to carry a small notebook in which they can record key notes to themselves about what to do, who visited, and so on. It helps to prompt the person to write those things down, reinforcing the habit of using this memory aid.

Paula Spencer Scott

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers and much of the Alzheimer's and caregiving content on Caring. See full bio