“Oops I forgot to turn off the oven….”
“…How will I remember to buy milk on the way home?”
All of us encounter the phenomenon of forgetting to carry out tasks, which could be embarrassing and frustrating and sometimes even have significant and even critical ramifications, for example, when you forget things such as an appointment with the doctor or taking medication.
Our memory ability includes several sub-types of memory which include, inter alia, memory of things from the past (retrospective memory), such as remembering a place we have visited, and future memory (prospective memory), remembering to carry out in the future planned actions, such as remembering to call a friend at a certain time.
In order to succeed in remembering to carry out future tasks we need various cognitive resources, including short term memory, long term memory and concentration and attentiveness abilities. Therefore when we are tired, very busy or technically or emotionally overloaded, as a rule it will be more difficult for us to remember to carry out tasks, and there could be more “misses” of actions that we had planned to carry out. Also as we get older, when there is the possibility of a decrease in cognitive abilities, including a natural age-dependent decrease which does not include defective health conditions (such as dementia), it is possible the ability to remember to carry out tasks will become substantially challenging.
Use of memory strategies
From here we get to a support system that can also help us in situations of overloading and difficulty in remembering things in a better fashion. This is by use of memory strategies – techniques which we can use in order to reduce the cognitive load required and nevertheless succeed in remembering.
Memory strategies are divided into external strategies which include the use of external aids, such as the use of writing reminders, use of an alarm clock or requesting that someone remind us, and internal strategies, which include encoding information methods internally and using thought processes, such as creating associations or a story in order to remember a list of shopping items., creation of alphanumeric codes in order to remember a certain number, and as regards future memory tasks, choosing a hint that will remind us to carry out the task required as such that “when I encounter Situation X then I will carry out Y”, for example “when I pass the post box, I will remember the letter that I need to send”, “when it gets to 4 pm I will remember to call the doctor”.
A delay of several seconds for the purpose of using the strategy – creating an internal encoding or creating an external strategy, is worth the time, the attention and the effort invested. The more that we use more strategies and encode the information that we need to remember, our chance of extracting the information, and in fact remembering it when necessary, will increase.
The use of internal strategies is recommended when possible, this as creation of the strategy itself is cognitive work as such that it enables the brain to continue all the more forcefully with the encoding and extraction of information processes, which leaves it active and reduces “its work” load. This compared to external strategies whereby the use of them is efficient and worthwhile and moreover they definitively reduce the “work” load of the brain. This will often be desirable and positive however sometimes we will want to enable the brain to continue to carry out memory processes and contend with the challenges this entails.
In conclusion, the memory ability is an important and essential ability for normal daily life and functioning, with the emphasis on future memory ability. Sometimes, memory constitutes a challenge, in particular when there is a heavy work load, fatigue or natural aging processes. Use of internal memory strategies for encoding information using thought processes or external strategies with the use of external aids n order to remember, are effective and worthwhile tools, as such that they require attention and investment of slightly more time during the encoding of the information that we need to remember, however it is worthwhile and enables us to extract information, of a more effective and better quality.
At Reuth Rehabilitation Hospital Tel Aviv you can receive treatments to improve your memory skills and to develop daily memory strategies that are provided by the occupational therapists.
The information presented in this article is general. It does not constitute medical advice or replace consultation with a physician. It should not be regarded as a recommendation or an alternative for medical treatment.
The information presented in the English website is partial. For full info please visit our Hebrew website
(image is for demonstration purposes unsplash)