Archive for December, 2010

It’s that time of the year again. The top ten lists of the year are out to help us recall the year. It triggers both year and life review and stimulates our long term memory of where we have been, where we are, and where we are going. Seneca said it well. “It’s not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it.” This of course comes with end of the year resolutions that often amount to trying to do better next year. I often remark during my talks that the most grievous memory error is “trying to remember.” Instead, plan on how you will remember. Good intentions often fall short when a well placed post-it note would serve us well. It’s the same for New Year’s resolutions. A resolution needs to be […]


I recently had a client comment on my lack of enthusiasm for using a GPS device while driving. Instead, I suggest drawing schematic routes to your destination including major landmarks. She asked why I felt this way, as she uses her GPS regularly and does fine. The answer is complex. There are so many forms of technology that clearly help us function in everyday life. Smart phones, computers, and GPS devices add convenience and help us overcome limits. But there is a downside. These aids can also make us less aware of what’s around us. Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons discuss the issue in their book, The Invisible Gorilla. They describe “inattentional blindness” as the trade-off of being so good at focused attention that we see far less than we think we do. Our brains as so good at focusing […]


What should you expect in a memory evaluation? A good evaluation doesn’t hurt and you can’t pass or fail. It’s not like going to school. The essence of the evaluation is to determine how your memory and thinking skills are working. You should be comfortable and family members should be able to sit in and add their observations. There are three parts to a thorough evaluation: interview, formal evaluation, and feedback. There are several objectives for an interview about memory. First, the interviewer should put you at ease. Ideally, you and someone who knows you well (in case you forget that you forget) are interviewed at the same time. Part of the interview is to provide background information such as birth date, education, work history, health history, etc. This information also provides an assessment of your long term memory (e.g., […]

The first stages of Alzheimer’s disease are marked by decreasing self-determination. As one proceeds through early stages, there is an increasing need for external supports but independent survival is likely. In the later stages, independent survival in the community is no longer possible. The plans and skills learned in the early stages will determine, in part, the smoothness of these stages. The later stages are clearly marked by more than just memory loss. Indeed there are multiple skills lost (e.g., judgment, reasoning, planning, learning new skills or facts). There is often little self-directed engagement. Palliative memory care (e.g., day programs, placement in memory care units) is necessary, as short-term memory is severely impaired to the point that the forgetful person no longer is aware of forgetting. Each repeated question or comment is made for the first time from his or […]

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