From sticky notes to personal digital assistants

Nobody's memory is perfect! Even people without MS occasionally have memory lapses and confusion. Stress, anxiety and extreme tiredness can all cause cognitive difficulties. Avoid compounding the problem. Get enough rest, eat properly and regularly, make time for exercise and manage stress in a positive way.

Organization is the key to making the most of your memory. General tips for keeping organized include the following:

  • Use a daily diary or notebook and learn to use it consistently as your "Information Central." Set up sections for important appointments, to-do's, phone numbers, driving directions, shopping lists and any other things you need to remember. Get rid of all those little scrap pieces of paper. You'll feel a sense of satisfaction as you cross things off your to-do list.
  • Consider getting an electronic organizer (also known as a personal digital assistant or PDA), cell phone, or smart phone. There are many computer-based gadgets on the market, so choose the best option (be it low- or high-tech) that fits into your lifestyle. These organizers can be programmed to beep as a reminder of important appointments.
  • Carry around a small tape recorder to record important thoughts as they pop into your head. There are also electronic recorders on the market that fit easily into small pockets and don't require tapes.
  • Set up a family calendar on your refrigerator at home to keep track of everyone's commitments.
  • Keep a notepad by the phone to log messages from family and friends.
  • Organize your home or office environments so that frequently-used items remain in familiar spots. Encourage family members to return borrowed objects to their assigned places.
  • Ask people to keep directions simple. Repeat information and write down important points.
  • Try to stay calm when you don't remember something. It happens to everyone!

Many people with MS and memory problems also rely on sticky notes (Post-It is the best-known brand of these). While this may be a useful technique for some people, MS experts think that these sticky notes can cause confusion if they get out of hand or become unstuck. It may be more helpful to carry around one notebook or electronic gadget with you rather than to have a whole trail of yellow sticky notes.

If the risk of physical and cognitive disability is weighing on your mind, talk to your doctor about it. There are many options available that can help you live better with MS.

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