There is no miracle cure for memory loss. You can, however, use specific techniques to sharpen existing memory and make new information more easily retainable. Try making new information more meaningful and relevant to you by personalizing it somehow. By doing this, you’ll find it easier to recall things.
In addition, there are certain organizational habits that you can perform to better prepare your brain for new information. Performing these behaviors reduces anxiety and pressure, freeing you from your stress and allowing you to focus more readily. The more organized you are, the better you’ll be able to concentrate on what you need to remember. Try the following techniques:
- Belongings — Always keep important, frequently used belongings (keys, glasses, handbag, etc.) in the same place.
- Meetings and appointments — Use a calendar or electronic organizer to keep appointments and other important dates. You should have this with you all the time for easy reference.
- Daily planner — As with your calendar, keep lists of things that you have to do each day in a daily planner. Be sure to write down the names of people to call, any bills you need to pay and any errands you need to run.
Names and phone numbers — Keep your address book updated and easily accessible.
Treating Memory Loss
The treatment of memory loss depends on its cause. Sometimes it is as simple as treating the underlying illness that is causing it. For example, treating depression, thyroid disease or a sleep disorder should resolve any associated memory loss.
At present, there is no drug that can prevent age-related memory loss or reverse it. Nor is there a pill for people who want to sharpen their memories, although experts believe that one day this might be possible.
However, self-help techniques and practical exercises, as described above, can be effective.
Using Drugs to Manage Dementia and Its Complications
Drugs have a role in the management of dementia and its complications. Treatment will not reverse the disease but may prevent its progression, perhaps for up to a year. The choice of treatment depends on the cause of the dementia. Alzheimer’s disease affects a system of signal transmissions in the brain that is known as the cholinergic system.
Medications have been developed to help restore cholinergic function. There are four medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease that act on the cholinergic system. These are:
Although these medications do not offer a cure, they can improve the symptoms of mild to moderate dementia.
Another drug memantine (Namenda) works differently than the drugs mentioned above. Memantine is approved for the treatment of moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease.
In studies of patients with moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease, those who took Namenda by itself showed a slower decline in mental function when compared with those who took placebo (a sugar pill). In a separate study, those who took Namenda in combination with donepezil (Aricept) vs. donepezil alone, also showed a slower decline in mental function.
Treatment of the complications of Alzheimer’s disease, including behavioral disorders, depression and sleep disturbance, requires careful assessment of social and environmental issues and exclusion of other medical causes. Treatment should initially involve lifestyle changes. Should this fail, medications can then be considered.
The treatment of multi-infarct dementia is similar to the approach taken to prevent a stroke. Your doctor will recommend lifestyle changes and medications to modify risk factors such as tobacco use, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and elevated blood sugars.
Lewy body disease is another type of dementia that can result in profound memory loss. People with Lewy body disease usually have additional symptoms that are similar to those seen in Parkinson’s disease. Drug therapy to help maintain memory is less effective compared to Alzheimer’s disease.