By James Heuer, PA
After suffering a TBI it is common to experience trouble with your memory. Whether your TBI was moderate or severe, you will have difficulty remembering things, finding the right words when speaking, and getting organized. These brain functions are all types of cognition. Symptoms including anger, stress, and fear (that occur after a TBI) have an impact on the brain’s cognition as well. These symptoms slow down your thinking more and, therefore, slow down cognition. Do not be discouraged as there are ways to improve these cognition problems. It is important to identify which types of problems are common after the changes in the brain occur from the TBI.
Since a TBI can affect the way your brain takes in and stores information, it can also cause your thinking process to slow down overall, which makes it more difficult to stay focused. The most common type of memory loss after a traumatic brain injury is short-term memory loss. TBIs affect short-term memory more than long-term memory. This means you may have trouble learning and remembering new information, recent events, or what’s happening day to day. Most commonly, short-term memory problems means:
- forgetting important details of conversation, such as remembering to relay a message to another person;
- forgetting where you left items such as keys or your planner or cellphone;
- feeling uncertain of what you said in the morning, the day before, or the week before, resulting in asking the same questions repeatedly;
- forgetting what day it is or losing track of the time;
- being unable to retrace a route you previously took earlier in the week;
- forgetting what you just read in a book or what you just viewed in a movie.
Along with short-term memory problems, it is also common for people to not remember the injury itself. This is called post-traumatic amnesia. It means that people may not have stored the injury as a memory. Afterwards, it leaves people confused and unable to store any more memories that occur after the injury. This can last from a few minutes to months depending on how serious your TBI is. If you are unable to remember the events of your TBI in a series of memories, it is simply because your brain never stored them. It is important to ask your medical providers, family members, or friends who have solid information about how you were injured to help you.
Since struggling to remember things is so common with a TBI there has been quite extensive research on how to restore the brain’s ability to learn and remember naturally. Specialists who work with recovery programs have found tactics that help treat cognition problems and there is also a lot a person can do on their own to help their brain function. Since the brain is a muscle, there are ways to improve it and to keep it active through exercise. The following are examples of ways to help:
- Work on crossword puzzles.
- Write things down in a planner or cellphone, such as lists of tasks that need to be done throughout the week, groceries to be bought, and chores to do around the house.
- Keep all important personal items like your wallet and keys in a special spot at home by the door.
- Use checklists to keep track of what you have done or what you need to do, with due dates.
- Give yourself extra time to practice, repeat, or rehearse information you must remember.
- Get good rest. Fatigue can make cognition worse.
- Learn ways to reduce stress such as deep breathing and exercising.
Memory problems and other symptoms of a TBI usually improve over time with the help of medical providers and perseverance.
James A Heuer, PA is a personal injury attorney helping individuals with TBI after suffering one himself, located in Minneapolis, Minnesota. www.heuerfischer.com