Living Well with MS: managing disturbances in memory

Nancy Goranson
woman thinking

A common symptom for many people living with MS is memory loss. Memory changes have been found in about 60 percent of people living with the disease. Most people affected will experience mild changes in short-term memory. For example, they may find it difficult to remember such things like appointment dates and times, errands planned or instructions from a boss or family member. A much smaller percentage of those suffering memory concerns, roughly 10 percent, experience more severe concerns with memory to the point that activities of daily living are significantly impacted.

Memory is a complex process. At times, MS may be impacting it directly but other times, it can be the result of other changes in the brain, in particular, changes in attention and a decline in speed of information processing. Regardless of the pathway, memory changes can be frustrating and problematic for those who experience them. Fortunately, there are things we can do to improve short-term memory.

Here are some recommendations:

  • Have a notepad handy and write reminders to yourself.
  • Minimize distractions. For example, turn down the television and look at the person talking to you, focusing only on them and what they are saying.
  • Keep multi-tasking to a minimum, working on one project, one step at a time.
  • Be sure to get adequate sleep.
  • Do crossword, Sudoku, trail mazes and other puzzles that require you to challenge your brain.
  • Repeat important information, allowing it to be learned and recalled.
  • Similarly, having a routine you follow on a daily basis will increase your memory for doing daily tasks.
  • Take rest breaks during the day, finding five to 10 minutes to sit quietly and breathe.
  • Pace your day between activity and rest. Nap when you need to.
  • Physical activity can help keep the mind alert and attentive, so make time to exercise regularly.

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