More than 50% of people living with Multiple Sclerosis will have some cognitive problems in their life. Because I live with chronic pain, Persistent Post Traumatic Headaches, and fatigue, I also have cognitive problems. This impacts me in many ways, forgetting things, short term memory issues, word finding problems and holding conversations. As these symptoms worsen, I have incorporated a few extra steps to my routines to help myself. They are:
1 – Pacing
Fatigue worsens every symptom, and it has a big impact on cognitive ability. To help soften this I make sure I pace myself, doing only what I can, not what I wish, I can do. Practical things like creating a daily schedule. With enough breaks in between doing things which require effort. I also have to manage how many projects I am doing. I have my limit of 10 hours work per week, so I make sure I don’t do more than that.
2 – Sleep
Creating a healthy sleep routine is so important. I go to bed at the same time every night, with a similar routine. I also don’t set an alarm for the morning, sleeping as long as I need. Yesterday, I went to Galway, the local city, and the effort of the day takes a lot out of me, so last night I slept 9.5 hours, instead of my usual 8. My body needed the rest. Because I don’t put myself under pressure to wake earlier I have more restful sleep.
3 – Use a calendar
I forget things I used to remember so easily. To make sure I don’t forget a planned activity I have to use a calendar. I have two, one on my phone and the second is a weekly desk calendar. The combination helps me remember. They key to making it work is to immediately record every meeting or appointment on both of these. If I don’t, then I will certainly forget. Now it is part of my routine, and it doesn’t frustrate me as much as it did when I started. The nasty voice in my head was always saying I never had to do this before, so why now? The beast is silent about this now. 🙂
4 – To Do List
Over the years I have tried many To Do list apps and methods. The one which is most effective for me is having an open notebook on my desk, where I can write down what I need to do. It is alway there, open, with a pen or pencil beside it so I can write something down the moment I remember. I can then strike something off the list when I have the task completed. So satisfying to do this, and and I mentioned the power of creating small successes every day in a previous post, and this satisfies this objective. My day is scattered with small wins.
5 – Share
There is a temptation to hide this problem. I understand how you can feel it is a sign of weakness. In the past I felt the same way. However, I have learned it makes my life much easier of I share my challenges with others. Once they know I have this as a problem, and I have strategies to compensate, they can help me live my best life. How does this play out in the real world? I will let my partner know about something I need to do if I don’t have my calendar or To do list available. This shares the task, but my saying it, it also reenforces the memory in my head. If I am at a meeting, I will ask for everyone to no speak over the other people, as I will lose track of the conversation. Or I will ask them to refresh my memory, by asking them to repeat the conversation.
These tips don’t solve every issue associated with memory problems, but they help. A final tip, a bonus, is to complete tasks, if you can. For example, I was charging the battery of my boot (trunk) scooter during the week and when I unplugged it I din not put it in the boot or trunk of the car. So yesterday when I went to the big city, I could not use it. I didn’t complete the task and as a result I forgot something. If I had only taken a leaf out of my grandmothers book and put a note on the front door to remind myself, make sure the battery is in the car!! I think I will do this now.