Memory is often thought of as a single ability or function. It is, however, much more layered than that.
The Nuances of Memory
Broadly speaking, memory is the ability to remember. When asked about their memory, people will often say that they have a good memory or that they have a bad memory. However, memory is more nuanced than that- sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Think about your own memory…does it always work well? Is it better for some things than for others? How do you feel about your memory? When it works well, you feel good; when it doesn’t, you may feel frustrated, embarrassed, or be unaware.
Memory Strengths & Weaknesses
There are many ways to think about memory. Increasing a person’s awareness of these different approaches can help them grasp their own memory-related strengths and weaknesses. As a clinician, besides facilitating patients’ insights, thinking about memory in multiple ways can increase your ability to help patients improve their memory function, increase their daily life participation, and maximize their quality of life.
For example, here are some common patient statements paired with clinician responses that can elicit patient self-assessment and useful insights:
Patient: “My memory is awful.”
Clinician: “What do you mean by ‘my memory is awful’?” and “Can you think of any times when your memory worked for you?”
Patient: “I can’t remember new things anymore.”
Clinician: “Describe some situations when you couldn’t remember new things” and “What do you do to try to remember new things?”
Patient: “When was I supposed to have that done by?”
Clinician: “Why do you think that you don’t remember that?” and “What do you remember about when the due date was made?”
As described above, thinking about memory in different ways will inform specific patient-centered approaches to evaluating and treating every individual with decreased memory abilities.