Memory Loss and Paying Attention

“Memory Matters” for ALL Ages  LINK TO PROGRAM

One of the cornerstones of a good memory is to pay attention for more than a few seconds. Developing that habit early on can impact your ability to recall information and is essential when a person has frequent memory complaints, whether it is normal aging, mild cognitive impairment or early onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Some things to think about:
1. To enhance your ability to recall, you need to pay attention for 5 to 10 seconds. If someone interrupts you or you are putting something down while talking to someone or are on your way to another task, the likelihood of remembering diminishes. Your attention shifted and even a few seconds can make a difference.
2.  Hearing loss  contributes to memory difficulties because if you do not hear what was said in its entirety, recall can be an issue.
3.  With memory loss there can be increased anxiety which often does not promote good attention skills. Stress can have a major impact on focus and paying attention. It can become a vicious circle without tools to counteract some of the negative aspects.
4. Improving your attention to what is being said means you are
-  Less likely to make mistakes ( improved competence)
-  Less likely to forget things ( improved memory)
-  Able to improve your prospects for personal safety
-  Likely to reduce some of your stress
-  Likely to find life more interesting. Relationships and contacts with others can
be more rewarding.

Tips to consider: 
1. If you have a hearing loss, it is important to ask someone to repeat of verify information. Wearing your hearing aid is going to do you more good than keeping it in the drawer. For some who are not candidates for a hearing aide or do not want to purchase one, there are some excellent listening devices that can enhance a person’s ability to hear in a variety of settings.
2.  If you are having memory problems or worry that you might forget something, write it down or record it on a mini digital voice recorder or on your phone for future reference. Memory props are a good thing but need to be organized in a way that they are not misplaced and increase your anxiety.
3.  Understand what tends to distract you most often. Do you keep doing several things at the same time? Do people distract you when you are concentrating on something or do you get sidetracked watching something going on elsewhere? Sometimes hurrying from task to task  or operating on automatic pilot is a common distraction. Or when you are tired or bored do you switch your attention back and forth more quickly? Refer to the series of blogs on multitasking for more information on distracts and look for upcoming blogs on how to better handle those distractions.
4. Practice bringing your attention back to where it should be.
- Notice when your attention has shifted. That is the important first step.
You cannot change what you are not aware of.
-  Then just accept that it has shifted. It is what it is.
- Then gently redirect your attention back to where it needs to be.

Practice doing only one thing at a time. Eat a meal, give a person your undivided attention, or watch or listen to a program. If you notice your attention shifting, acknowledge that it is happening, then shift back to what you were doing.

M Scott Peck  ~  ”You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.”

Link to “Memory Matters” for ALL Ages  cable television show: Memory Loss and Paying Attention. (available soon)

Further resources: Gift ideas and products to enhance time spent together including reminiscence puzzles and conversation starters. Click here for more ideas about CREATING TIME WELL SPENT.

About Kathryn Kilpatrick

Kathryn Kilpatrick received her Master's degree in Speech-Language Pathology in 1968 from the University of Massachusetts. She has worked in a variety of settings, primarily in Ohio, including hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and for decades in the area of home health care. Kathryn is president of Memory Fitness Matters ( and Communication Connection( She offers memory coaching for all ages and has a geriatric consulting practice. She is a national motivational speaker and author of more than 30 products to enhance communication and connection as well as a Memory Fitness Toolkit. Kathryn brings her decades of experience as a speech-language pathologist to all those wanting to enhance their quality of life, particularly when there are communication, memory and cognitive challenges. Her websites offer information on a wide variety of topics related to elder care concerns as well as memory fitness and successful aging.
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