Patient Spotlight: How I Use My Calendar to Cope with Memory Issues

Sep 4, 2018 | Dr. Melanie Chandler, HABIT FL Director | @drmelaniechandler | Comments (5)
Lakens
This week's post comes to us from Virginia, a Minnesota resident and former Mayo Florida HABIT Alumni.

 

Anyone who has attended the HABIT program knows one of the key components of the program is The Calendar. An excellent tool to keep track of tasks, appointments, and action items and; because it is used by both the participant and the care giver, a useful means to help reduce repetitive questions and increase independence.

Keith and I attended HABIT two years ago and have been faithful users of our calendar ever since. However, I remember well, feeling and expressing a very strong resistance to incorporating the Calendar when it was initially introduced.

Prior to going to HABIT I had been using a ‘standard’ 12 month calendar, which fit nicely on my desk and, I felt, had been serving me quite well. I thought I was doing just fine keeping track of things (although I must admit I had missed several appointments recently). I cringed at the thought of learning a new system… especially one that had so many ‘pieces’ and details. I even called it ‘over kill.’

However, I reluctantly agreed to give it a try during the two weeks of the program.

Well of course, by the end of two weeks, I became a devotee. I soon realized the benefit of having a ‘system’ of keeping track of action items (those accomplished and those still to be done.) Of having a page listing monthly events, as well as a daily page with space for hourly entries, to do items, and notes. Most important was Keith was using the same system, and had committed to coordinating our calendars on a daily basis (these days there are times we check-in even more often).

I keep my calendar within easy reach. At home it’s on my kitchen desk and when I’m away from home, it’s small enough to easily fit into my purse or a pants or jacket pocket. I use the calendar to keep track of appointments, of course, but I also make notations in it, such as:

  • names of new people
  • grocery items
  • book suggestions
  • interesting stories I’ve heard on NPR that I want to share with Keith
  • people I want to invite for lunch or dinner
  • topics for blog posts
  • chores that need to be done
  • plants I want to include in my flower bed next season

Many of these things may seem trivial to others. But I’m the one who gets to decide what is in my calendar, and for me, the more the better.

Keeping my calendar coordinated with Keith’s is crucial since he is my primary caregiver and my major source of transportation. Also Keith is usually the one who keeps me on task; “We need to sit down and go over our calendars,” he gently urges when it’s been more than a day since we’ve collaborated.

The children also understand the importance of my calendar and keep me informed of the grandchildren’s events and activities, family travel plans, or any event which might impact me, as well as those ‘pieces’ that often go in and then right out of my memory bank.

Keeping such an extensive calendar, and having it with me all the time, has eased my anxiety and reduced my stress considerably, as well as increased my sense of independence.  For example, once something is written down I can then ‘let it go,’- knowing I can easily retrieve the information later.  Additionally I can now easily ‘go back’ and retrieve information without having to rely on someone else.  An example is, I often have difficulty remembering the time of my yoga classes, as I go to two different sessions and often mix the times. In the past I would have asked Keith numerous times, for verification. Now I look back on my old calendars and find out myself. I’m also better able to keep track of birthdays, book suggestions, and shopping lists, because they are all located in one place.

Using the Calendar has increased my sense of confidence, capability, and independence. And at the same time has decreased some of my anxiety and stress. Which is not only great for me but for my dear care giver as well.

From the HABIT Team:  We are always so thankful for the thoughts, insights, and skills that our patients bring to this program.  If you would like to read more of Virginia’s writing, please visit her blog page at  virginialaken.com

 

Interested in more newsfeed posts like this? Go to the Living with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) blog.

Wow, Virginia. What a great assessment of what the calendar has done for you and Keith. My husband and I had the same experience. And I totally agree that the key to the whole system is having both members of the couple keep and coordinate their calendars. I really liked your list of what kind of things you write in the notes section. My husband, too, writes new people he meets, chores he wants to schedule, and things he wants to remember to tell me. It sounds as if you two compare your calendars daily. We usually do it weekly – every Sunday night so we have everything documented for the week ahead. Is there anything you can think of that would help you feel more supported in this process? I'm always looking for tips on how I can better support my husband as he deals with MCI. Thanks so much for your insightful and heartfelt article.

REPLY

Is there somewhere I can get this Calendar you are speaking of? Sounds like it could be just the thing for my 90 year old mother (recently moved from a senior’s residence almost 2 hours away to 20 minutes away from me) and I to coordinate as she is rapidly slipping into her cognitive impairment which has not yet been diagnosed but which is frightening both her and I.

REPLY

Hi Kathy – The calendar we use is only available for those who participate in the HABIT program. Of great importance here, we have found in the past that it isn't having the calendar itself that helps, it is having specific training to support and engage people in using the calendar that helps. You can buy similar, although not exactly the same, calendars or day planners out there on the market. Again, however, it is not just having the calendar, it is getting training in using it that is of most benefit. That being said, writing things down more to help memory is better than trying to remember it on your own, regardless of our specific calendar!

Hope that helps!

REPLY
@drmelaniechandler

Hi Kathy – The calendar we use is only available for those who participate in the HABIT program. Of great importance here, we have found in the past that it isn't having the calendar itself that helps, it is having specific training to support and engage people in using the calendar that helps. You can buy similar, although not exactly the same, calendars or day planners out there on the market. Again, however, it is not just having the calendar, it is getting training in using it that is of most benefit. That being said, writing things down more to help memory is better than trying to remember it on your own, regardless of our specific calendar!

Hope that helps!

Jump to this post

Thank you Virginia for explaining how you use your calendar, I will think about ways I can adapt any calendar. It was helpful to see the things you use it for. Paying bills would be something I would add, and having lunch foods available for my handicapped daughter to take to program. Also the things needed at the store, I don’t know how many times I shop and forget to pick up something. I keep appointments on my phone calendar and there is a way to coordinate phone calendars with others in the family. I don’t know how to do it, and I’m not sure if it’s possible on all phones. But sometimes I forget to check my phone.
Thanks again, Skylark.

REPLY

I absolutely loved that idea. Where would I find this item? Also I'm a retired social worker, and I would love to give a class to others who would benefit from this tool. Or possibly our Agency on Aging here in Maine would offer classes. I signed up for a class on ALZ. but had to have surgery, and didn't complete it, but I have their book, and it's very helpful. That's where I got the tips that we use for reminders, but it's helpful. That tool that use use seems ideal. Things like breakfast with neighbors. Right now he's in the barn replacing the bottom of a birdhouse that was rotting, and he scraped one house shutter today, and will paint all of those, but the reminders for social events, etc. and other chores would then take on a certain priority that he could manage. Lists of each others doctor's appts. We're 84 and 85 years old, but still very active. We keep a daily routine, and list things but it isn't well organized. I would love to have a course offered here.
Elizabeth

REPLY
Please sign in or register to post a reply.
  Request Appointment