Memory aids, tools and strategies

4. Electronic memory aids

There are a range of electronic devices that can be used to help with memory problems. Some of these are also known as ‘assistive technology’. Many people find that electronic devices can help with daily tasks and support them to remain independent.

Some devices will be easy to use, while others may take longer to get used to. You may need the support of friends, family or professionals to help you choose one and get the most out of it. There are benefits to using electronic devices once you’re comfortable with them.

Alarm clock

Use an alarm clock, a watch with an alarm, or a kitchen timer to remind you when you need to leave the house for an appointment, or when you have to check something cooking in the oven.

Write down why you have set the alarm, so you know why it is going off. Try to keep this reminder in a place that you’re likely to notice, such as a whiteboard, calendar or diary.

Mobile phone

There are different ways to use a mobile phone to help you:

  • The display screen of most modern mobile phones shows you what day and date it is. You can also use the calendar function on your mobile phone to remind you of the day and date.
  • You can programme reminders into most mobile phones. This means an alarm goes off at a certain time with a message reminding you about something you need to do. This could be a one-off event like meeting a friend for lunch, or something recurring like your favourite TV programme. (Some TVs or service providers, such as Freeview or Sky, also have reminder features so you can set a reminder to watch or record a programme).
  • When you have booked a doctor’s or dentist’s appointment, for example, they may be able to send a text reminder to your mobile phone. Ask the receptionist about this when you book.
  • Many mobile phones have a built-in voice recorder. Use this (or a portable recording device such as a Dictaphone) to record information that you need to remember. You could play it back later, or transfer reminders to a written calendar at the same time each day.
  • Many mobile phones have cameras. You could take a quick picture of something to remind you instead of having to write anything down.

Computer or tablet device

If you have a tablet device (such as an iPad) you can use functions such as reminders, notes or the calendar to help you.

Most email accounts have calendar and ‘to do’ list features that you can check when you use your computer.

You might need to put a sticky note or label on your computer to remind you to turn it on and check your daily list.

Apps

If you have a smartphone or tablet device there are a range of applications (known as ‘apps’) that you might find useful. These include:

  • calendars
  • reminders
  • maps
  • apps for life story work (a personal record of experiences, people and places in your life)
  • apps for relaxation exercises and mindfulness – a technique that can help people manage their mental health or simply gain more enjoyment from life.

You can download apps from the internet (via a ‘store’ such as the App Store or Google Play) and use them for specific tasks. For example, you could use a medication reminder app to prompt you to take your pills, and which medicine to take. Some apps will be free, while you will need to pay for others.

There are lots of different apps available and you may want to try different ones to see if they work for you. Some apps have a ‘basic’ free version which you can try before buying the full app.

Prompt and reminder devices

These are devices that detect movement nearby and can be placed near a door. You can set the device to play a voice message as a prompt for your memory when you approach.

For example, it could go near your front door, to remind you to lock up when you go out, or to take your keys with you. Or you could have one near the kitchen door to remind you to check you have switched the oven off.

Another kind of reminder device automatically plays a pre-set message at a certain time. For example, if you go shopping at 9.30am on a Tuesday, you can record a message reminding you to take your shopping list and bags with you at this time.

Locator and GPS devices

You can use these to help you find frequently mislaid items such as keys or a wallet. You attach a small electronic tag to the item. If you mislay it, you click a button on the locator device to make the tag beep. You will need to keep the locator device somewhere obvious (see ‘One place for everything’ on page 16). Your friends and family may also find these useful.