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Tips for attention and short term recall

Think of memory as being a 2 story House. The upstairs is where Long term memory resides. Long term memory is information you have had multiple opportunities to think about (e.g. birthdays, a vacation). Long term memory is typically less impacted by acquired brain injuries, but can see seen in in later stages of Dementia. Short term memory is often where people tend to have issues. Visualize Short term memory as being on the first floor. I like to think of Short term memory as "New Learning"; it is new information that you need to encode and turn into a memory file in your brain. The foundation for this House of Memory is: Attention! If you are easily distracted, or trying to do 2 things at once, you have a higher likelihood of not paying enough Attention to this new information, and therefore you won't be able to rehearse and remember this information for later retrieval.

Strategies to improve Attention and Short Term Memory

Internal Strategies

Pay Attention

Listen, look, and focus. Minimize distractions (t.v. in background while on the phone)


Make a concerted effort to visualize where you put your keys down, and take a mental picture.

Repeat and Rehearse

Research shows we need to repeat/rehearse new information 3-4 times before we begin to encode the new information.Say the new information you need to remember out loud.

Chunk information

Sort information into groups. For example, we do this when remembering a new phone number: we chunk the 10 digits into groups of three: area code, three digits, then last four digits Try with organizing your grocery list into groups, such as produce and dairy.

Create associations

Make links between what you want to remember and what you already know. For example, remember a new name by connecting it to someone with the same name (e.g. my name is Justine, so Baby Boomers and Generation X people might link my name to the Family Ties actress Justine Bateman to help them remember my name).

External Strategies

  1. Take notes during appointments

  2. Keep a daily journal

  3. Write down your daily schedule (wake up time, lunch date, bed time, etc.)

  4. Use a calendar or planner to write down appointments

  5. Jot down people’s names

  6. Write a copy of your medication list

  7. Write to-do lists, grocery lists, exercise lists, etc.

  8. Use your phone to write down appointments, reminders, timers, and alarms

  9. Use voice assistant tools Amazon Echo™ or Google Nest Mini™ for auditory appointment reminders, creating grocery lists, setting cooking timers, and alarms


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