A campaign to remember: memory loss after brain injury

This week is Action for Brain Injury Week, and in 2020 the theme is memory loss.

Following a brain injury, memory loss and associated concentration problems can have a significant impact on individuals and families. A recent study by Headway found that 72% of brain injury survivors feel that the people in their life don't understand their memory problems, with 81% saying that their life would be improved if people had a better understanding of memory loss.

Understanding memory loss

A brain injury may affect different aspects of someone’s memory and is a very common symptom. Some people don’t remember the incident or accident that led to their injury and might have problems storing memories for some time after the accident. This can sometimes be referred post traumatic amnesia.

There are many different components to memory making it a complex system which enables us to take in, store and then retrieve information. Following a brain injury these systems can be disrupted and this can lead people to feel anxious and asking lots of questions for reassurance.

Often, after a brain injury people experience memory difficulties such as remembering new information, how to complete familiar daily tasks, conversations, peoples names, past events, and things that are due to be completed in the future such as appointments. Memory is a dynamic system that uses pathways between many areas of the brain.

Supporting people living with memory loss

At Inspire Neurocare, the specialist team are skilled at supporting people who are experiencing memory loss to develop new ways of tacking the issue.

This includes a range of methods to compensate for the memory loss, or lack of ability to create new memories. This entirely depends on the individual and what works best for them, as memory loss after a brain injury can affect people in different ways.

Strategies might include:

  • Setting reminders on your phone, or by leaving post-its where you can see them at the right moment
  • Ensuring there are fewer distractions around you – going into a quiet room or turning off the radio or TV so there is no background noise when you are being told something
  • Using checklists to ensure you’re on-track throughout the day.
  • Taking extra time to understand what someone has said, asking the person you are speaking with to speak more slowly or repeat back what you have heard
  • Having a ‘memory station’ by your door, with daily items that you can’t forget. This might include your keys, purse or wallet and phone.

Emma Clayton, Occupational Therapist at Inspire Neurocare said,

“Prior to arrival at Inspire Neurocare, some people may benefit from standardised cognitive assessments to determine if there are any specific components of memory that are affected. For others, we may complete informal assessments of their memory, through observation of the completion of usual activities to identify any difficulties.

Intervention aims to enable people to function as independently as possible in the activities that they want, need or are expected to complete. In addition to consideration of external strategies, specific intervention may be considered. This might include an errorless learning approach, which ensures that when new learning occurs it prevents mistakes being made, the use of repetition and rehearsal, and cognitive activities such as the use of worksheets or functional tasks to practice development of strategies such as ordering lists, chunking information and the development of techniques such as mnemonics or visual imagery.

Where appropriate, we try to educate the people we support and their family members about memory difficulties. This can be beneficial to ensure that there is an understanding of any difficulties and ways in which support can be given. This support might include writing down important information if people struggle to recall things they are told verbally.  The person-centred approach at Inspire ensures that assessment and intervention for people with memory difficulties are based on each person’s individual needs – there is no one-size-fits all.”

Memory loss after brain injury animation

Headway have produced a short video about memory loss after brain injury, which tells the story of Tony, a father who sustained a brain injury in a car accident. After waking from a coma, he didn’t recognise his family and closest friends.

You can see Headway’s full survey results here.

Contact Inspire Neurocare

Inspire Neurocare is a specialist neurocare and neurorehabilitation service in the West Midlands supporting individuals living with the impact of brain injury and other neurological conditions.

Please get in touch to make a referral or find out more about how we can support you.

Email: [email protected] or call 01905 969000.

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