Leaves many reminder notes to self but forgets writing them

  All Alzheimer's Symptoms

When it happens

Can begin in the earliest phase of dementia and continues throughout the mild stage. By moderate dementia, this crutch is no longer used because the person typically can't follow through on the impulse to write self-reminders, and the act of writing itself becomes too difficult.

Why it happens

Note-writing is a natural coping mechanism for the gradual (and at first subtle) loss of immediate memory. Struggling to maintain command of the many bits of information we rely on in a given day, as well as looking for a measure of self-esteem and confidence, the person tries to commit thoughts to paper in order to provide a memory prompt later.

Often, but not always, the sort of person who does this is one who often wrote lists and notes. The difference now is that these reminders are more frequent or about more mundane things, such as where the car is parked or what was said on the news.

Unfortunately, immediate-memory loss being what it is, the tendency is to forget having written the memory jog in the first place, and notes are either not consulted or are rediscovered with surprise.

What you can do

  • Encourage this habit; like any memory crutch, it can be helpful.

  • Remind the person to look at the note: "Let's check what you wrote down."

  • Provide multiple notepads and writing utensils at strategic locations: near a phone, in the car, at the bedside, in the bathroom. These may be carried off and lost or misplaced, but keep restocking.

  • Don't overestimate the power of these reminders. It's pointless to chastise the person: "Well, you wrote it down, didn't you?!" The ultimate problem is forgetting even having written it.


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