Taking Steps to Keep Track of Names and Tasks
Living with mild cognitive impairment has led to some new strategies for keeping track of things
Editor’s note: The founder of the first sleep and dream research lab at the University of Manitoba and a retired psychology professor, David Koulack is documenting his health journey through occasional posts on Next Avenue.
Keeping track is what I'm trying to do these days. That's one of the hidden agendas of Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). You have to try to be aware of what you don't know or won't be able to do or even what you won't remember that you have to do.
I've still got the "shakey wakeys" that I've written about before. They're here and have maybe gotten a bit worse. Now it's not only when I'm outside walking, but also when I'm walking into the living room with my morning coffee. As it turns out, I have to put less coffee in my cup, otherwise my shaking will cause me to spill it on the floor.
A Walking Stick Makes a Difference
The shakey wakeys have become somewhat of a problem when I'm out walking my dog, Lily. Nothing dramatic has happened yet, but there are times that I feel as if I'm going to fall down and that for no apparent reason, I can't maintain my balance.
Memory problems keep coming to mind because there are all kinds of things that one has to do during a given day.
When I mentioned it to one of my sons, he suggested that I carry those walking sticks that look like ski poles. I can only use one, because Lily's lead is in my other hand, but there's no question that it helps me maintain my balance and, on the occasions when I've used it, it's given me a feeling of relative security.
But now, I see I've gotten off the track, no pun intended. I started to tell you about my memory problems and then I forgot. But I'm back on track now, at least for the moment. Memory problems keep coming to mind because there are all kinds of things that one has to do during a given day. I've discovered that unless I write them down, I not only don't do them, but I don't remember that I should have done them. And even writing them down might not be enough.
For example, the other day my neighbors gave me the combination to the lock on the door at the side of their house. They were going to be at work and asked if I'd let some workmen into their place to fix the flooring. "Delighted to do it," I told them. So I dutifully wrote down the combination and was ready for action.
But there was a problem. I had the combination alright, but I wasn't home when the workmen came. I was out for a walk with Lily. Fortunately, the workmen waited for me and when I got back I remembered where I'd written down the combination and was able to let them into our neighbors' house.
Not long after I let them in, I glanced out our front window and happened to see a guy walking by, a guy that I "knew." "Knew" in quotes because I used to see him regularly when he went on his two-a-day walks that took him by our house.
In fact, it was on one of those occasions that I met him. He had slowed down, actually stopped for a moment to admire the lovely flowers that were growing in our front yard garden. I happened to be outside so we started talking. That's when I told him my name and he told me his. But now I realized that I'd forgotten his name.
A Neighborly Way to Remember Names
So, when I saw him this time I started out our door in sort of hot pursuit. "Sort of" because I can't walk that fast anymore, but I did make some headway and caught him at the curve of our crescent and reminded him of our earlier meeting. I asked him his name and, as before, he said, "It's Richard or Dick, whatever you prefer" and I told him that my name is David. Happily, I still have no trouble remembering that.
It turns out that I'm on my way to becoming a great-grandfather.
On the way back home I repeated his name and so far, as you can see, I haven't forgotten it. But the important thing is that the exercise provided me with a line of attack for names in general. Now, every time that I go out walking with Lily, I say the names of our neighbors as we pass by their houses. Sometimes I forget but generally I do pretty well. In fact, I just shocked a new neighbor, who obviously had forgotten my name, by remembering hers.
Remembering is always important, but in the last little while it's become strikingly so in my life. What's happening? It turns out that I'm on my way to being a great-grandfather.
A whole new life is coming my way and I want to be part of it, helpful and loving. I want to get to know this new person in our family, be able to cuddle him or her, maybe help out a bit, but certainly share the joy that our whole family will have about this new addition.