How to Enhance Memory After an Acquired Brain Injury
Whether caused by infection, disease or lack of oxygen to the brain, the effects of an acquired brain injury can be extensive and wide-reaching. We have dealt with many brain injury compensation cases here at Enable Law, and although in many cases memory cannot be fully restored, sometimes specific exercises can help.
What is Memory?
What we think of as memory involves different activities. We need to be able to take in information, store it and then find it again when we need it. This is referred to as encoding, storage and retrieval.
There are different types of memory:
- Sensory memory: we take in information by seeing and hearing things. Sensory memory is that part of our memory which holds on to that information for a few seconds.
- Short term memory (or working memory): we can hold on to about 5 to 9 pieces of information for a slightly longer period. Much of this information is then lost. For instance, most people can remember a telephone number for a few minutes, but will then forget it.
- Long term memory: we manage to hold on to a small amount of information for much longer. That might be information about events in our life, facts (e.g. ‘lions are a type of big cat’) or how to do things (e.g. how to ride a bike).
Memory Problems After Acquired Brain Injury
Sadly, after injury, memory problems can occur, and you may find it easier to forget information. Injuries to different areas of the brain can damage memory in different ways. Common types of memory problems from acquired brain injuries include:
- Retrograde amnesia: difficulty in remembering things that happened in the period before the injury.
- Post-traumatic amnesia (or anterograde amnesia): difficulty in remembering things after the injury. This is because it may become difficult to learn or remember new information.
- Short-term memory problems: being unable to hold onto information for short periods.
- Prospective memory problems: being unable to remember things to do in the future (this may mean people miss appointments).
Managing Memory Problems after Acquired Brain Injury
Improving memory after an acquired brain injury may be difficult, or even impossible for some, but people can often find ways to manage life with a poor memory. These are some tips:
- Rearrange your environment. Make it easier to find things by being tidy. Label cupboards and drawers to show what should be in them, put keys and phones in the same easy-to-find place every day, use a notice board, or perhaps keep a notepad by the phone.
- Use memory aids. Use notebooks, diaries, calendars, alarm clocks and phone reminders. There are good phone apps which can be helpful too.
- Adopt a routine. Doing the same thing at the same time each day creates a routine. For instance, always taking medication in the morning can help you remember to take your pills.
Although none of these actions will improve memory, they do make coping slightly easier. However, there are ways people can use their memories better, despite having poor memory:
- These are memory aid sayings. Many people gave up the piano long ago but can still remember the order of staves in the treble clef – EGBDF – from ‘Every good boy deserves favours’. Making up your own mnemonics is a good way to remember information. I can still remember my mnemonic for the textiles towns of Northern Ireland from a geography test at school.
- Saying things out loud or writing them down. Some people remember things better if they hear or see the information. So, repeating things out loud or writing them down can help.
- Associating things. If you have trouble remembering people’s names, try to associate the name with a mental picture. ‘Paul’ could be poor. If so, imagine him with threadbare trousers. Nick could be rich, so imagine him wearing a crown.
Memory Exercises for Acquired Brain Injury
There can also be benefit in trying memory exercises. These are unlikely to improve your memory, but they can be fun and they can help you find strategies to work with poor memory. They can also help to keep your mind active and help your concentration.
Some suggested memory exercises for acquired brain injury are:
- Crossword puzzles
- Card games (Pelmanism is a good memory game)
- Learn ballroom dancing or take up a sport: activities coordinating mind and body are good
- Do mental maths
- Take up an activity that uses fine motor skills – drawing, making models, painting etc.
Could Your Memory Have Been Affected as a Result of Medical Negligence?
Whether these or other memory exercises will help may depend on the nature of your acquired brain injury. However, one thing is for certain, our friendly and knowledgeable medical negligence solicitors can advise you on whether you could have a claim for compensation from your acquired brain injury. Get in touch today to discuss your case.