I follow a few MCI groups on Facebook, and lately on one we’ve been talking about tricks we use to remind ourselves and keep track of things, and it got me thinking about the things I do. These are some of my compensatory behaviors.
I can only do one thing at a time well. So, I do things like, if I need to get something from upstairs, that’s my main task. I may bring something up with me that needs to be put away, but that’s a secondary task. When I get upstairs I set that thing down in my set-things-down-spot, and leave it. I’ll put it away later. I went upstairs to get something, like maybe a sweater. If I put something away first I’ll forget about the sweater. If I’m upstairs for a longer period of time I’ll put those things away. I’ve got spots all over the house where I set things down to finish later.
When I drive places I use a navigation app, unless it’s someplace in my neighborhood. If I go anyplace else I turn on the app. It can be annoying to listen to directions I know, but when I need it, it’s reassuring. If I don’t have time to make a turn safely I drive past the turn, turn around the block, and try again. If I’m confused I pull over and look at the map. Sometimes when I’m driving I get disoriented, even when I’m going to someplace I’ve driven to frequently.
I bought a smart watch that connects to Google Assistant. When I want to remember something I push the button and say, “Take a note,” and I make a note while I still remember. Before I got my watch I would look around for a piece of paper/pen, or I’d pick up my phone to open a note app, and by that point I’d be distracted by something and forget what I wanted to write down. I also use Google Assistant with my phone. I could instead use Alexa or Siri, but I’m a Google/Android person.
I used to let the dog into the backyard and forget he was out there until I heard a dog barking outside, and I’d realize that it was my dog barking. Now if Brownie doesn’t come right back to the door I set a timer for ten minutes, and then check to see if he is back. When I steep a cup of tea I set a timer, so my tea isn’t over steeped. If I’m cooking/baking something and I step away I set a reminder on my phone. Timers, reminders and alarms are endlessly useful.
My family uses a shared Google calendar, and I can check that on my watch, and add things to it. It’s especially useful to be able to check my calendar whenever I want to, so when I have that panicked, “Oh my goodness am I meeting my friend today or tomorrow?” I can check right away and stop stop worrying about it. I can also check my calendar on my computer or phone, but my watch has less options so it’s less distracting.
The Mayo Clinic has a note-taking system for people with MCI that they call HABIT. Right now it’s in paper form, but they’re developing one that’s an app. I’m looking forward to that, because they’re adding wellness action plans related to nutrition, cognitive exercise, and physical exercise. I’d love to have my reminder system connected to developing healthy habits. Mayo is also thinking about having Zoom training systems, which would be great. I’m good at learning new technology, but I’m not as good as I used to be. It helps to watch someone else do it at least once. Here’s the MCI blog from the Mayo Clinic: https://connect.mayoclinic.org/blog/living-with-mild-cognitive-impairment-mci/ I highly recommend following it.
I’m always on the look out for techniques that will help me. This week I read about someone with MCI who rewrites recipes before he cooks. I plan on rewriting the ingredient list for my recipes now. I often dump all of the ingredients in at once, because I don’t notice things like I’m supposed to split the flour into two parts. I’m going to write the ingredients and amounts in order, and draw a line between steps. That’s all I should need to avoid my normal mistakes. This week I made bread, and didn’t notice that I was supposed to let the bread do its first rise before I added the salt and honey. The bread came out okay, but not great.
The more regular habits I have the better I “remember” things. Because, I’m not actually remembering. I’m compensating. This is what makes it possible for me to do my activities of daily living (ADL’s). Some people say that the line between MCI and dementia is crossed when someone is too cognitively impaired to be left on their own. I’m grateful that I’ve always been a relatively organized person. Yes, I can be messy and lazy, but in general I have places where everything belongs. I’m learning that being lazy is not in my best interests, because when I put things away I have a better chance of finding them again. It’s not in my best interests to set something down any old place.
The more routines I have, the more schedules I have, and the more organizational systems I use, the easier it is for me to cope with this disorder. Yes, this is not how I expected to live my life, but it’s okay. I’m okay, and I’ll be okay.
And here are some photos of today’s dog walk. I’m happy to be out exercising more again. Autumn is beautiful in Colorado. ❤