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25 September 2010 @ 02:47 pm
New Strategies for an Old Brain  
In the past several years my cognitive function has been deteriorating. I've mentioned this before. What I haven't talked much about is the strategies I've had to come up with to compensate for poor short term memory, attention problems, disorganization, spelling problems and aphasia. Well, I haven't worked around all of those but I have come up with some useful tips.

Formerly, I never needed a kitchen timer. I hadn't even bothered to learn how to use the timer function on my microwave. Thank Goddess it's there, though, because I now need to remind myself that I put water on to boil lest I set the house on fire. I'm really glad that my mom taught me never to leave anything flammable near the stove, because I have gone away and left the burner on quite a few times now. Get in the habit while you're young and it can save your life someday!

In addition to using a timer for every stage of cooking, I have utilized post-it notes for many things. I have a post-it above my computer with my phone number and zip code, since I can not always remember these off the top of my head. (I used to keep lots of people's numbers and zip codes in my head. Those were the good old days.)

If I have an appointment, which I mark down in two different calendars, a planner and a wall calendar, I make a post-it the day (or two) before and put it on my mirror so I remember to set my alarm and I remember later what the alarm was set for. My husband also helps to remind me to put the note on the mirror.

When I make an appointment, I've learned the hard way to repeat everything back to the person so I know I've written it down correctly. I once failed to show up because I wrote something different from what I was hearing.

I put my handicapped placard on the door handle so I'll see it on my way out. Other important items can go next to my purse and keys. I have a consistent place for those so I'm not searching the whole house at the last minute. If there are additional items I must remember I put a post-it on my door so I'll see it before I leave. I also make a list of questions or concerns to mention to the doc so I don't forget them.

I aim to get there fifteen minutes early so if I do forget something I have allowed extra time to look for it or come back for it. I've also learned not to get involved online or in a book so I won't lose track of time.

I've posted the monthly bills on the fridge so I don't forget any. I keep any new or one-time bills in my planner so I remember to send a check.

Thank Goddess for Tivo because I can't even focus on the weather through one whole broadcast so when I go off on a mental tangent I can re-wind and catch it again. I've had to re-wind several times on some nights.

I've learned to swallow my pride and ask people to repeat what they just said if I was absorbed in something else when they started speaking.

When I can't think of the word I want I've learned to write or talk around it or simply describe an object until the other person supplies the missing word.

I haven't stopped wishing I had my old brain back, but I'm living with the brain I do have much better now. It's taken time to learn to do things in a new way and create systems for myself.
 
 
 
(Deleted comment)
Tapatitapati on September 26th, 2010 07:17 am (UTC)
Some of them I don't catch until later, some I catch in proof-reading or my husband does, some I notice because of the helpful red lines, sometimes I use google to look up a word because it just doesn't look right to me. It's frustrating because I was always good at spelling before. I find myself writing sound-alike words by mistake even though I know better, too. I'm also doing reversals of letters.

I want my brain back. :(
Warrior of Worrywarriorofworry on September 26th, 2010 12:34 am (UTC)
Tapati, I'm going to borrow some of these strategies (even though I already feel like I live out of my calendar and blackberry).
The aphasia is the most difficult thing for me. I've gotten quite facile with thesaurus functions lately while I write, but they don't work as well as I like.
I was in a hearing the other day, making an argument on a motion, and the word I needed flew right out of my head. The magistrate got frustrated with me - "say a word! any word!" as I was trying to remember what I needed. It's like an old filing cabinet when it's been banged around and the drawers stick - I *know* the information and/or word is in a file in there somewhere, but I can't get the drawer open to get to it.
Tapatitapati on September 26th, 2010 07:15 am (UTC)
It's annoying as fuck, isn't it? You want the right word, dammit! Not the almost right word or the three-times-removed-word. It makes me feel really stupid. Worse, sometimes a weird substitute word comes flying out of my mouth and I know right away it's not the appropriate word. The first cross like this happened with elevator and umbrella. I was looking at an elevator and umbrella is what popped into my head. Sometimes I can catch them before I say them but sometimes I blurt them out and people just look at me like I'm crazy.
Tapatitapati on September 27th, 2010 08:27 pm (UTC)
Last night I wanted to say counter (as in kitchen) but what came out of my mouth was calendar. Heh.
Warrior of Worrywarriorofworry on September 27th, 2010 09:43 pm (UTC)
If you read C. J. Cherryh's Foreigner series (if you don't, btw, do: great stuff at the cultural interface) also known as "Pregnant Calendar".