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BRAIN INJURY JOURNEY BULLETIN: Memory

APRIL 2017

Edited by Marilyn Lash, M.S.W.

Memory creates memories.

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WHAT IS MEMORY ANYWAY?  Changes in memory are one of the most common symptoms and consequences of brain injury reported by survivors. They can affect everything from the remembering an appointment to the ability to hold a job. The frustration can also be felt by families and caregivers who tire of hearing, “I don’t remember” reminders are ignored. Too often, memory is explained by two types – short-term and long-term. For example, there is the person who can’t remember what he did yesterday (short-term), but can remember his wedding 30 years ago (long-term).

It’s a lot more complicated than that.  As Dr. McKay Moore Sohlberg explains in Memory after a Brain Injury,  there are different types of memory and they rely on different systems within the brain.  The brain does not process all information in the same way.

Different types of brain injuries or diseases can affect memory in different ways. For example, persons with memory difficulties caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain because of a near drowning or heart attack are likely to quickly forget what they are told or have done. The brain has trouble storing new information.

Brain Injury disrupts memory process!

On the other hand, a person with damage to the frontal lobes of the brain from a car accident may be able to learn new information but cannot retrieve it without prompting. This person may have difficulty organizing information in memory and have more difficulty retrieving information that was previously stored in their memory.   Here are some of the different types of memory that can be affected when the brain has been damaged by an illness or injury.

The above section is an excerpt from Memory after a Brain Injury by McKay Moore Sohlberg, Ph.D.

William Jarvis knows humor helps to cope!

If you’d like to read what “A Typical Day with a Brain Injury” can be like when memory is affected, Bill Jarvis describes how complicated a simple journey to the grocery store can be in Brain Injury Isn’t Funny (But Humor Helps You Cope).

Memory Processing

The process of forming and storing memories is complicated. Two parts are essential – memory registration and memory recall.

What is memory registration?

It simply means that information gets into your brain. This is not always easy for survivors of a brain injury….The information has to get into your brain before you can pull it out or recall it.

Tips for improving memory registration

What is memory recall?

Simply put, this involves retrieving information from the brain that is already stored in your memory. Remember – if it doesn’t get in, it can’t come out!

Tips for improving memory recall

Note: This excerpt is from Memory Strategies after Brain Injury by Barbara Webster.

Resources on Memory

Barbara Webster has authored a workbook that includes tips on memory strategies and other issues called: Lost and Found: A survivor’s guide for reconstructing life after brain injury.  Coping with life after brain injury is not easy. This practical and user friendly workbook and guide for survivors and their families is packed with everyday strategies, tips and accommodations to address the cognitive challenges of daily life.
Based on the author’s experience as a survivor and as facilitator of hundreds of support groups, Barbara Webster gives tools and methods for overcoming challenges, envisioning goals, and continuing the healing process at home and in the community.  This collection of “brain injury survivor wisdom” gives users a wide array of compensatory strategies and cognitive techniques that can be used each day, no matter where one is in the journey of recovery. The workbook comes with a USB drive to print all forms and worksheets.  This is the one book that every survivor of a brain injury and family should have. It is the most comprehensive, sensitive, insightful and thorough workbook available and is filled with hands on practical strategies aimed at helping the person with a brain injury navigate the complexities of daily life. By focusing on the cognitive changes that are so common after a traumatic brain injury, the author approaches each challenge with practical building blocks and strategies for continued rehabilitation at home and in the community. Her philosophy of problem solving and thinking about “how” to do something when a challenge is encountered is a continuous theme through all the chapters.

Living Life Fully after Brain Injury: A workbook for survivors, families and caregiversRobert T. Fraser, Ph.D., CRC, Kurt L. Johnson, Ph.D., CRC, and Kathleen R. Bell, M.D., Editors, along with a impressive group of co-authors have compiled an impressive and practical workbook on the long journey of brain injury. Whether you are a civilian or veteran who has survived a brain injury, a family member or caregiver, a clinician, advocate, or direct care staff, you will find this workbook is a valuable resource and tool for living a full life after brain injury. It pulls together scientific information from evidence based research, a range of topics from coma to living in the community, compelling personal vignettes to illustrate content, tools for personal assessment and practical strategies, a USB drive with worksheets for personal and professional use.  This is the publication that has been missing up to now in the field of acquired brain injury. With chapters by 19 national experts on brain injury, it is informative at a “cutting edge” level but presented in a format and writing style that is empowering and clear for individuals and families. A CD contains 46 worksheets that can be printed and used by survivors, families and clinicians.  Click Here for an Interview with Dr. Robert Fraser.

MY BRAIN AND I — Jennifer Callaghan writes from personal experience on sustaining severe traumatic brain injury and its aftermath. She describes in poignant detail her struggles, obstacles, and frustrations, as well as the triumphs and gains over a 16-year period.  Her story begins with a traumatic experience of being the victim of another person’s recklessness in traffic (speeding). She recounts vividly her immediate family’s capacity to cope with her trauma and debilitation, her own anger and irritability because of lost skills and abilities, and the loss of inhibitions developed from former lifestyle.  As her journey continued, Jennifer reveals her thinking, feelings, and perceptions of the world around her. Her recall of these processes is attributable to a thoughtful doctor suggesting she journal what she was happening in her life, which seemed an insurmountable task. The journaling proved to be instructional and rewarding.

SURVIVAL KIT by Debbie Leonhardt, M.A. — Persons with brain injuries often have difficulty with planning and organization due to cognitive challenges. This new planner and organizer is filled with tools, strategies, checklists, schedules, reminders, logs, and charts. They are designed to help survivors develop compensatory strategies for everything from the tasks of daily living to organizing their household and routine. This new second edition of the popular Survival Kit is more compact, portable and affordable for easy use. The Survival Kit is ideal for use in rehabilitation, out-patient programs, residential settings, at work, at home and in the community.  A USB Drive for the Survival Kit is included with files to print additional forms.