Migraines, TBI & Short Term Memory Strategies

For patients whose migraines are the result of a traumatic brain injury (TBI), memory loss is a huge, frustrating obstacle. Particularly short term memory issues. Certain medications can cause memory problems, too, such as migraine prevention med Topamax (Topamirate). As someone who deals with short term memory problems years after I stopped taking Topamirate, I can share some tips & tricks that help me get things done.

Write everything down immediately. Either carry a little notebook with you or use your smart phone if you have one. I like a program called Evernote because I can access it on my laptop, my iPhone and my Kindle Fire. That not only allows me to easily make updates, but also to look up something I've recorded in a variety of different ways.

Examples of things I record:

- new symptoms and side effects

- migraine treatment medications I've used

- items for the grocery list (I keep my grocery list in Evernote so I can use it at the store, too)

- blood sugar results (I'm diabetic)

- questions for my doctors

The immediately part is equally important. For instance, if you're making a sandwich and run out of mustard, stop what you're doing and write mustard on your grocery list. In the moment when you think, "Oh, I need to call the vet" or "I forgot to find out if my insurance policy covers that," write it on your to do list.

Set reminder alarms. Once you've started writing things down, the next step is to remind yourself to do the time-sensitive things you've written down in a timely fashion. Setting alarms helps with this. If you have a smart phone, great. You can be a lot more flexible about the types of reminders you set. I use the Reminders app on my iPhone. You can set something to remind you daily or just once. It's very flexible. (If you don't have a smart phone, you can pick up a small kitchen timer, use a reminder function on your computer if you work at it most of the day or even use a regular alarm clock. A free program called Memo to Me emails you reminders you set up on their website.)

Then it's a matter of deciding what to set reminders for. Here are some ideas:

- Time to take medication (I have this set for am & pm meds)

- Pick up child from school

- Doctor's appointment tomorrow

- Doctor's appointment in x hours (on the day of the appointment)

- Make a phone call

- Balance the check book

- Order prescription refills

- Pick up prescriptions

- Work assignment due

Keep things in the same place. Put your keys on a hook or in a basket by the door and do this every time you come home. Do the same thing with your wallet and other important items you use every day. For instance, I keep my phone charger by the bed and have a ritual of plugging my phone in to charge when I go to bed. I never had to scramble to find my charger and start the next day with a fully charged phone.

Organize your life as much as possible. Make this your motto: Everything has a place and everything in its place. If your physical condition makes it difficult for you to organize and purge in your home, as a loved one for help and work on it a little bit at a time.

Seek professional help. If you are a TBI patient, I also recommend talking to your doctors about getting a referral to a specialist who can help you work on your short term memory issues and address your specific needs.

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