Going the distance

Memory aids and a regular routine help you stay on track

By Edward T. Creagan, M.D. July 1, 2014

Need more help?

If the stress in your life is more than you can cope with, get help right away.

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
    1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Go to the nearest hospital or emergency room
  • Call your physician, health provider or clergy
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness
    1-800-950-NAMI (6264)

Several months ago I evaluated a patient in the clinic, a gentleman in his 70s who was doing well from a cancer perspective. He typically played tennis with some of his retired colleagues on Tuesday mornings. This was a fun experience. It was healthy. It was engaging and the patient looked forward to these weekly, friendly matches.

On a Thursday evening, the patient was collecting his tennis gear and his wife asked him where he was going. the patient said that he was going to play with his friends. His wife was perplexed since the day and time were clearly not correct. With more questions, it became obvious that the patient was becoming subtly confused.

I picked up on his wife's concerns and sought the appropriate consultations. My patient was found to have mild cognitive impairment.

When I saw the patient back, I asked what he had learned. He shared several important lessons:

  • Have a daily routine and stick to it.
  • Put your keys in the same place each day.
  • Make a list and put it in a visible place.
  • Plan ahead and be sure to be rested for big events.

I subsequently learned that these tips can be valuable for anyone who has ever experienced a lapse in memory, as happened recently to my wife and me.

With a family reunion coming up, we purchased several dozen cupcakes. We put the cupcakes in the refrigerator in a part of the house that we don't frequent as part of our usual routine. You can guess what happened.

After one hour of driving to the reunion, my wife cried out in disbelief, "Oh no, we forgot the cupcakes!"

What could we have done differently? We should have planned on being stressed and distracted becaue of the reunion and followed the "front of the door policy."

This means if something is really important, whether it is a document or an item, we leave it on the floor in front of the front door. Another approach is to put a sticky note on the door. Otherwise what we forget may be far more important than a dozen cupcakes. Please weigh in with your trials and tips. We're all struggling with these same issues.


Edward T. Creagan, M.D.

Follow on Twitter: @EdwardCreagan

Join the discussion at #Stress.

July 01, 2014