Any type of brain injury, mild, moderate, severe, acquired, traumatic, etc, etc can have a significant impact on the things we once took for granted. The things we did automatically, without having to think about it. Things such as being able to remember what we just read in a book, remembering how to navigate to a destination we have been to frequently, but can no longer automatically remember. In daily life, having issues with short term memory can be embarrassing, frustrating and humiliating. We might miss medical appointments or catch ups we have arranged with friends, and our friends find it hard to understand how we could forget. We rely on our memories for the simple acts of paying our bills, remembering to take any medications that have been prescribed, remembering birthdays of those we hold dear. The sweet luxury of reading a book and enjoying the book, relies heavily on being able to remember what you have read. We envy those people who can remember vivid details of different movies they saw years ago, and they can even quote lines from the movies. A review of feedback in brain injury support groups shows that short-term memory issues are a frequent source of frustration.
Without memory strategies, tools and resources, our lives could potentially become a disorganised mess, and we may need to rely more heavily on other people for assistance to remember. Thankfully, it does not have to be that way if we choose to take actions that strengthen our short-term memory, whilst also using the strategies tools and resources that work. In my book, Holding on to Hope, Finding the ‘New You’ after a Traumatic Brain Injury, I write about different memory techniques, such as mnemonics, which can be used to help remember lists, ideas, and phrases. I also write about practical steps you can take, to make it easier for your brain to remember, such as limiting the distractions around you when you are trying to focus on cognitive tasks such as reading a book and taking regular breaks, to reduce fatigue. There are steps you can take that are within your control, to give your brain the best chance of performing at its highest potential. Many studies have proven that alcohol is neurotoxic, and this impacts heavily on the brain’s neurotransmitters. Heavy drinking can also cause shrinkage in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that is associated with memory and reasoning.
Developing routines such as recording every appointment and to-do on a calendar or diary works for some people. Memory aids can become part of your life, and eventually, using the aids that work for you can become a positive habit and something you end up doing automatically. Recording all my own appointments and to-dos in my Outlook Calendar on my mobile phone was a strategy I used for my work and personal information, and that was ok, but I felt like there could be a better system. I looked and researched different memory/organisational tools out in the market, but they all had weaknesses when it came to short term memory issues. One device only gave reminders via email, another device did not provide any notification sounds to make you aware of the tasks. The Outlook calendar reminds you 30 minutes before a task but if you need to travel one hour to an appointment, this could be a problem. All these facts inspired me to look at creating a memory management app specifically designed for people with brain injury, and the idea was born whilst I was writing my first book. In collaboration with Lizard Global, an app design company, we created RETIINK. The app is iPhone and Android friendly and it has task/appointment reminders which includes inbuilt sound notifications one hour before the task or appointment, and 15 minutes before. At the beginning of the day, you will also get a summary of the tasks and appointments for the day ahead. The app has memory and spatial awareness/problem-solving games on it to assist in building your memory, concentration and problem-solving skills. There is brain health, and rehabilitation articles to read via the blog in the app and if you require support/assistance from a Support Worker, Carer or friend (in the app, they are called Buddies) to get to appointments, or complete the tasks, you can also invite them into the appointment or task via the app. If your Buddy also has the app on their phone, then they can also see the appointment or task you have invited them to. The RETIINK app also provides you with the ability to challenge yourself through working up the scales of the 10 levels from Rookie to Big Kahuna! For every task and appointment, you set, you will earn points. For every blog article you read, you will earn points. For every memory or spatial awareness game you play, you will earn points and you can see how you are tracking with progressing towards the next level on the Training screen:
The benefits of the App include:
• Enables management of tasks and responsibilities with a
higher level of independence and better time management.
• Memory and spatial awareness games to help enhance memory and concentration skills, problem solving skills and spatial awareness ability
• An ability to track progress against tasks, memory games, and reading via the blog, so that goals can be set to work up the levels
• An information resource to keep up to date with research and
education on resources to aid brain injury rehabilitation
• Enables communication between preferred parties (Carers,
Support Workers etc) to aid in health care
It may take a couple of months to form the habit of recording everything in your calendar, diary or RETIINK app, but once you have mastered the habit, your life will become more organised, and you can become less stressed and independent with management of your tasks and appointments. Being proactive with your rehabilitation and recovery process is vital! Check out the Retiink page on this website for more information.
I have also created a free memory cheat sheet to give you more great ideas on managing your memory more effectively. To get your free cheat sheet go to: