Memory and cognition

Memory and thinking difficulties are very common after having Covid-19. Most people will recover to a level of functioning that is normal for them. It can be difficult to accept changes and difficulties with your memory. It is important to remember that recovery is individual to the person, and that it may take time to fully return to your previous self. This is completely normal!

If you are struggling with your memory, you may find it difficult to hold information in your head, make decisions and recall information. You may struggle to ignore distractions and to remain focussed on tasks and activities for long periods of time. You may feel as though you are more disorganised than before, have problems initiating tasks and struggle to plan ahead. These symptoms are all very common after having Covid-19.

This may be because you are experiencing more fatigued, you may find yourself getting tired more easily. It is common that viral infections affect both your physical and psychological energy, as well as your ability to concentrate. You may be feeling more anxious than usual, the uncertainty surrounding Covid-19 has been a worrying time. This can have a negative impact on your mood.

It is important to think about ways you can manage your difficulties rather than avoiding or pushing through; this can make you feel frustrated and anxious. Implementing strategies and using memory aids can help you take a step back and focus. Having a plan to manage these difficulties may help alleviate stress and anxiety. You may wish to speak to family and friends for support.

You may find that it is difficult to focus your attention for longer periods of time if you are feeling fatigued. It may be helpful to reduce the demands on your attention by using the following strategies:

  • Reduce distractions – think about the environment (i.e. is it quiet)
  • Break down tasks you are attempting to do in to smaller, more manageable chunks
  • Space out demanding tasks throughout the day or the week

Your memory takes in information provided by your sense.        

The five sense are: Vision, Hearing, Smell, Taste, Touch 

Prompts can be helpful when attempting to recall information.

Prompts can be:

Sight
A photograph- this can prompt the memory of a forgotten name.

Smell
A particular perfume- this can prompt the memory of someone special to you.

Taste
The taste of a dish can prompt the memory of when you first ate it.

Touch
The feeling of sand under your toes may evoke memories of a childhood memories.

Hearing
A piece of music may bring back memories of a specific event

Many people find the following approaches helpful. It can help to try out different approaches to find which ones work best for you.

  • A regular routine
    set up a regular routine. This will make it easier to remember what will happen over the course of the day. Include time to relax as part of the routine. But keep some variety and stimulation, such as meeting up with a friend or visiting a museum, so you don’t get bored.

  • Plan ahead
    plan ahead to make your daily tasks more manageable.

  • One thing at a time
    Try to only do one thing at a time.

  • Small steps
    Break tasks down in to smaller steps. Then you can focus on just one step at a time.

  • Special Places’
    Try to keep important things such as your keys, glasses and wallet in the same place. This could be a large bowl somewhere obvious or visible.

  • Label items
    Try to keep the layout of your home familiar so that you know where things are. Consider labelling drawers and cupboards with words or pictures of what’s inside them. Remove any clutter or unnecessary items.
  • Distractions
    if your environment is noisy or very busy, you will find it harder to remember things or concentrate. Your memory works much better with no distractions. Try to make your environment quiet and remove any unnecessary distractions.

  • Timing
    try to do the most challenging things early in the day, when you have the most energy and can concentrate best.

This section suggests aids that might help with different types of memory difficulties.

Calendar or diary

  • Put a calendar, wallchart or notice board in a place where you will see it frequently. You could use a whiteboard or tasks for the day and wipe them off as you do them.
  • Write things down that you want to remember and mark them off once complete, keep it somewhere that it is easy to see.

Newspapers

  • Consider buying a newspaper each morning, or getting one delivered. This can help you remember the date.

Calendar clock

  • It can be useful could use an automatic calendar clock. As well as showing the time, it will remind you of the date and day of the week.

Shopping list

  • Make a list of things you need shopping throughout the week. Add stuff on to this list when you notice. Ensure you take this list with you to the supermarket and marks items off as you go. If you are likely to forget the list, put a postit note reminder on the front door to prompt you as you leave the house.
  • If you find it difficult to write, you could keep part of the packaging of items you have run out of.

Contact Numbers

  • Keep of a list of important contact numbers by the phone for example, the doctors, the police, utility companies, family members or your neighbours.
  • Have a sign by the sink reminding you to wash your hands before cooking
  • Keep a sign near the bin remind you what day to leave this out for collection.

Medication reminder box (Dosset box)

  • Dosset boxes have different compartments for each day and times of the day. You can see whether you have taken your tablets, or it can be a reminder to take your tablets. Some dosset boxes are fitted with alarms and lights that act as a prompt to remind you to take your tablets.

Electronic devices

  • There are a range of devices that can be used to help with memory problems. Some of these are also known as ‘assistive technology’. Many people find that electronic devices can help with daily tasks and support them to remain independent.

Alarm Clocks

  • Use an alarm clock, a watch with an alarm, or a kitchen timer to remind you when to leave the house for an appointment, or when you have to check something cooking in the oven. Write down the reason you have set the alarm so that you will know why it is going off.

Electronic devices

If you have an electronic device such as a mobile phone or tablet you can use the functions such as reminder, notes or the calendars to help you plan and prioritise.

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