Enhance your memory

Alzheimer’s disease and other brain problems can leave people struggling with such simple tasks as cooking dinner or recognizing their own children.

Psychologists are finding strategies to help people adapt to memory problems, including:

  • Take mental snapshots. Good memory is actually good learning, say rehabilitation experts. That means forming a strong association with new information as you learn it.

    Systematically take note of things. When you put down your keys, for instance, take a mental snapshot of them lying next to the fruit bowl on the kitchen table.

  • Train your brain to remember. People in the early stages of Alzheimer's can benefit from simple memory training, research suggests.

    To learn a new name, for example, use "mnemonic devices" that link the new information with familiar information. If you meet someone named "Mr. Brown," picture them drenched in that color as you're introduced.

    Another training technique is one called "vanishing cues." If you can't remember a name, write down any letters of it that you can remember. Then fill in more and more until your recall kicks in.

    This training works by bypassing the faulty areas of the brain. Instead, you're training new areas of the brain to take over.

  • Take advantage of technology. A paging system, for example, can help people remember appointments or other important dates. And a specially programmed PDA can help guide users through complex tasks.

    Technology does have its limits, of course. For one thing, you have to remember how to use it or even that it's there for you to use in the first place.

  • Keep your spirits up. Memory problems can affect mood. Exercise and mentally stimulating activities can help.