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9 Ways to Alleviate Your Memory Problems

Strategies for improving memory problems resulting from disease or trauma

In this series of posts related to memory problems, I have noted that the information in these posts is NOT devoted to any memory problems due to aging. Rather, this information is in regards to memory problems that are specifically related to brain injury as a result of disease, trauma or neglect. In last week’s post “10 Ways to Improve Your Memory” we explored strategies for dealing with memory problems due to neglect. This post is focused on the proven methods and treatments that can improve your memory problems resulting from disease or trauma, such as traumatic brain injury, concussion, stroke, MS and Parkinson Disease.

The various methods and treatment are classified into three areas: conventional, complementary and alternative. This classification is based on insurance reimbursement. Almost 98% of conventional methods are covered by insurance, while at least 50% are covered by complementary and 0% for alternative approaches.

1) Cognitive Therapy (CT) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Both methods are covered under insurance, yet are very different. Cognitive Therapy is done by a Speech and Language Pathologist, while Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is done by a mental health professional, such as a licensed psychologist or licensed social worker. Cognitive therapy (CT) is the assessment and treatment of cognitive skills, including memory, attention and executive functioning (planning, sequencing, organizing, initiating, problem-solving, decision-making and self-awareness). Through the education and training of compensatory strategies, cognitive therapy helps you complete daily tasks with greater independence and self-confidence. Making strategic adjustments to your environment, for example, enables you to be more efficient and focused in daily function.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that helps people change how they think, feel, or act in order to improve their mood, reduce stress, or achieve other important health and life goals. Some goals may be specific, such as reducing worrying or procrastination, whereas others can be more general, such as figuring out why one’s life seems to lack meaning, passion or direction, and figuring out what to do about it. There are three parts to CBT:

  1. How you think (cognitive) can and does change your behavior.
  2. The way you think may be monitored and altered.
  3. The desired behavior change may be affected through changes in the way you think.

2) Medications

If prescribed by an M.D., most are covered by insurance, such as methylphenidate (Ritalin) and dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine) can be very effective for attention problems. Amantadine (Symmetrel) is a drug that affects the action of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters and that is sometimes used to treat people with Parkinson’s disease. These medications have side effects, but if they are effective, the benefits may outweigh the disadvantages.

Prevagen, a brain health supplement, has been shown to help alleviate memory and sleep problems by binding to calcium cells and reducing damage done by the body’s diminished production of calcium-binding proteins. The active ingredient responsible for this work is apoaequorin, a protein found in jellyfish. The regular version of Prevagen can be purchased at a health food store, while a professional, more potent version is sold through medical practices. As always, it is extremely important to consult with your neurologist before using any over-the-counter medication.

3) Special Need Educator/Tutor

Some state, providence and school systems may reimburse the expense. If you were in an automobile accident, it is important to have this included. A special needs educator is trained in a wide variety of methods to help with memory issues.

4) Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)

In many states, such as Florida, Texas and California to name a few, HBOT is covered by your health insurance. Hyperbaric medicine, now called Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy or HBOT, was invented as a means of dealing with decompression sickness. Breathing pure oxygen in an environment of increased pressure delivers twenty to thirty times the amount to the body tissues. This method helps provide more oxygen to the brain to enhance brain regulation. A subset of this is oxygen therapy or the personal oxygen bar.

5) Nutrition

Most insurance companies do cover a nutritionist or dietician. It is extremely important to eat an anti-inflammatory diet that allows the brain to heal, eliminating refined sugar, corn syrup, and any grains that can be fermented or distilled. An increase of omega-3 from wild sockeye salmon and tuna is beneficial. Additionally, spinach and other vegetables rich in antioxidants can help improve your memory. Coconut, olive oil, and avocado are good sources of fats that help the brain heal and enhance your storage and retrieval capabilities. Drinking water helps the brain, too.

6) Neurofeedback

Neurofeedback can help the brain to become regulated again and form new neural connections needed for attention, concentration, storage and retrieval. This technique uses a computer to give information to a person about his or her own brainwave pattern in the form of EEG activity, in order to train the person to modify his or her own brainwaves. When the brain is not functioning properly, evidence of this usually shows up in EEG activity. Neurofeedback training (EEG Biofeedback) assists a person to alter his or her own brainwave characteristics by challenging the brain to learn to reorganize and function better.

7) Exercise

Do what you can to raise your heart rate so that you can get more oxygen to your brain.

8) Computer Programs

There are several computer programs and websites devoted to improving your memory, such as BrainTrain, EyeQ, and Lumosity. There are other programs, however the ones I’ve named are the ones that I know personally are very effective.

9) Alternative Approaches

Many advertisements state that certain herbs or homeopathic remedies can increase your memory. These over-the-counter products may help, but it is always best to work with a knowledgeable practitioner rather than attempting to self-medicate. Even natural remedies can have serious side effects if not used properly. Depending on your specific needs, a knowledgeable herbalist may recommend a product such as ginkgo biloba, ginseng, super blue-green algae, black cohosh, or suan zao ren for memory improvement. Homeopathic remedies that may be recommended for people with post concussion memory difficulties include Carbo vegetabilis, Silicea terra, Hyoscyamus niger, Phosphoricum acidum, Helleborus, and Calcarea carbonica.

Some people have found that taking certain nutritional supplements, such as 50 milligrams of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and 100 milligrams of coenzyme Q10 daily, has helped to restore memory. It is important to be aware, however, that excessive amounts of vitamin B6 can damage the nervous system. As with any substance, it is crucial to first confer with your physician to determine what dosage, if any, is best for you.

Polarity therapy may be helpful in resolving attention and concentration problems, particularly if the practitioner has experience treating your particular symptoms

Practical Suggestions

You can go on numerous listserves, Facebook, or do an organic search for methods to help with your memory, including using sticky notes, writing things down and repeating them over and over to yourslef, or using digital recorders. I have found that many of these methods do work and you have to hunt and pick what is the best for you. In next week’s post, I’ll dig deeper into practical suggestions that can help with memory problems

What is important to know is that if you do the above nine suggestions, you WILL see improvements in your memory. Remember that there is help and hope. There is a Way!®

More from Diane Roberts Stoler Ed.D.
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