Traditional memory aids

There are a number of traditional memory aids that may help a person with memory problems, such as writing things in a diary or calendar, or using an automatic calendar clock.

Calendar or diary

Put a calendar, wallchart or noticeboard in a place where you will see it frequently – on the fridge or by the telephone, for example. You could use a whiteboard to note activities or tasks for the day and wipe them off as you do them.

A notebook or large ‘week to view’ diary can be helpful. You can write down things you want to remember, such as lists of things you need to do, or have done. Keep it somewhere easy to see, such as by the telephone or on a cupboard in the kitchen.

Get into a routine of checking a diary, calendar, noticeboard or whiteboard – perhaps when you wake up in the morning, every mealtime, or every time you make a drink. Cross the day’s date off your calendar before you go to bed, so that you are certain about the date when you get up the next day.

Keep a journal

Write a few sentences or stick photos in a daily journal. You can look back in it to remind you what you have done or how you felt. A journal may also give you something to show others or to talk about. You could collect tokens or mementos of things you’ve done to add to the journal as reminders. For example, you could keep a receipt from a meal out, train tickets or a programme from a show.

Newspapers

Consider buying a newspaper each morning, or getting one delivered. That way you will always know what the day and date are. Tidy up and recycle old newspapers.

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Calendar clock

You could use an automatic calendar clock. As well as showing the time, it will remind you of the date and day of the week.

Shopping list

Take a list when you go shopping. Cross things off as you put them into your basket. At home, keep a list of items that have run out so you can easily add them to your shopping list. If you find it difficult to write, you could keep part of the packaging of items you’ve run out of. Or you could use a voice recorder or Dictaphone, to help remind you what you need to buy.

Contact numbers

Keep a list of important contact numbers by the phone – for example, the doctor, the police, utility companies, family members or your neighbours. Leave your list by the phone or store the contacts in your mobile phone so that you have easy access to any professionals you might need to get in touch with.

You could consider buying a phone that allows you to pre-programme your most commonly used numbers into it. Then you would only need to press one number, or a button with a photo on it, to call someone. (This is sometimes known as ‘speed dial’).

Other memory aids

Sticky notes

You can use sticky notes anywhere in your home to remind you to do a one-off task.

For example, you could:

  • stick one on the freezer to remind you to take something out to defrost
  • stick one on your bookshelf to remind you when you have to return a library book.

Once you have completed the task, it’s important to throw the sticky note away. This way you won’t accidentally remind yourself to do something you’ve already done. It also helps you to keep things tidy.

Permanent reminders

You can make more permanent signs, for example a laminated A4 sheet, to remind you of things you need to do regularly.

For example, you could:

  • stick a sign to the inside of the front door to remind you to take your keys, purse, wallet or a shopping list with you
  • have a sign by the sink reminding you to wash your hands before cooking
  • keep a sign near the bin reminding you what day to leave this out for collection.

Medication reminder box

This is a box with different compartments for each day and times of the day. It is sometimes called a dosette box. The compartments have spaces for a number of different tablets. With a quick look, you can see whether you have taken your tablets for that day. Some models can be set to remind you when to take your pills, with an alarm, vibration or flashing light. Your pharmacist can help you get a medication reminder box and put your tablets in the right compartments for you.

Colour codes

Try coding or labelling your keys so that each one is a different colour – you can buy coloured rubber key caps or rings for this. For example, your front door key could be red and your garage door could be green. If you live in a flat, the key to your building could be blue.

Further reading