Epilepsy Talk

Memory Tips You (Hopefully) Won’t Forget! | February 9, 2014

I have a confession to make.

I’m the queen of “Post-Its”. I have Post-Its on tables, counters, walls, doors. I don’t know how I lived without them.

I guess, in the “old” days, I was the same with lists. Many lists. And way too much Scotch Tape.

Factoid: The man who invented Post-Its was an employee at 3M (also the maker of Scotch Tape) who went to his boss with a bright new idea. I don’t know if he got a raise, but he gets no royalties. Just my undying admiration and thanks.

Anyway, short of taking stock in 3M, here are some other suggestions…


Problem: So, you tend to forget appointments, addresses, PINs, and other necessaries.

Solution: That’s what PDAs, appointment books and memo pads are for. Write reminders of annoying every day stuff on a source you use and leave your mind free for more important things. Besides, the simple act of writing it down is one step closer to remembering.


Problem: You forgot why you walked into another room.

Solution: Think of why you’re going there beforehand. Try to visualize it. And if that doesn’t work, retrace your steps on how you got there in the first place.


Problem: You can’t remember where you put your keys, wallet, cell phone, charger, glasses (that’s a hot one for me), or whatever.

Solution: Try a “Don’t-Lose-It Basket”. Chuck in all the key items that you often misplace. And don’t forget to throw in a memo pad!


Problem: A word, a place, or the name of something, is on the tip of your tongue, but you can’t come up with it.

Solution: Try to think of the first letter. (I often end up going through the whole alphabet, but eventually I get it.) Try to attach a rhyme to it. Or else skip it. Eventually, you’ll remember it. (Probably at 2:00 in the morning!)


Problem: You have a hard time remembering people’s names. Who doesn’t? But if it’s your next door neighbor’s name, it’s a little embarrassing.

Solution: Take a good look at the person, repeat their name to yourself at least three times, then use it in a conversation. Or subtly fake it. Just greet them without saying their name. It’s better than calling them by the wrong name.


Problem: You skip your daily dose. And it’s even harder if you take different meds at different time.

Solution: Set reminders on your smart phone. An alarm. Or a pillbox you can program with different time alarms. There are even prescription bottle devices that use light and sound to signal when it’s time to take a pill. Technology is wonderful — when it works.http://www.epill.com/bestseller.html

Problem: You always get lost — even going home. My husband calls me “the lost girl.”

Solution: GPS, navigation systems, MapQuest, an app on your smart phone. (Forget Google directions, they’re the worst.) I actually use GPS with MapQuest beside me as a backup.


Problem: It’s hard enough to keep your own schedule straight, no less remembering where everyone else is going.

Solution: Try a centralized household calendar. Use a different colored marker to write down each family member’s appointments, invitations, and travels.


Problem: You’ve got something important on your mind or something you want to remember to do.

Solution: Send yourself a text. Call your answering machine and leave yourself a message. (If you have a land line.)  Or, carry around a tiny hand-held tape recorder and say what you want to remember.


Problem: You can’t remember whether you turned off the stove, the coffeepot, an iron, or other appliance.

Solution: Set it and forget it. Try buying things with automatic shut-offs. That will take a load of your mind. Or, leave a reminder by the front door of what needs to be on, off, open, or shut.


Problem: Your cell phone could be lurking anywhere. It’s just not where you think it should be.

Solution: Have someone call you and listen for that (loud volume) ring. Or always keep it on the same charger, so it’s charged, ready to go, and easy to find.


Problem: It’s either at home (not likely), where you last used it (which, in my case, was 250 miles away), or stolen.

Solution: You can’t just snap your fingers and make it appear. But you can make copies of the front and back of all your credit cards (and driver’s license, while you’re at it) and store them in a secure folder where you can access the numbers, security codes, etc. in case you have to report a cord lost or stolen.


Problem: Your money machine receipt is off $100. And not in your favor. That means next week, you’ll be living on fumes.

Solution: (I just figured this out when the above happened — not for the first time — to me.) Write down the withdrawal amount in your checkbook BEFORE you make your transaction. Then you can stick the money machine receipt in your checkbook, after. And don’t forget to put the card back in it’s slot when you put in your money.


Problem: How is anyone supposed to remember all of those passwords? It’s impossible. Unless you assign yourself the same name and password to every website you use. And that puts you in danger of a security breach. A hacker’s heaven.

Solution: LastPass. The greatest invention since the post-it note. Set up an account and every time you go to a website for the first time, a little red box will pop up, asking if you want LastPass to remember this website.

Say “yes”), fill out your information with any kind of password you want (a combination of upper case, lower case, symbols and numbers is the most secure) and it’s all there for you. Click on the website name in your LastPass Vault and you’ll have instant access. After that, LastPass will automatically log you in. It’s a technological miracle!  (Just don’t forget to write down your LastPass access codes and put them in a safe place!) https://lastpass.com/


Although it’s not a memory minder, you should know about a new state-of-the-art device for detecting seizures. It’s even been endorsed by epilepsy.com.

SmartWatch is an “intelligent motion monitoring and alerting wristwatch.” It recognizes patterns of repetitive shaking and jerking movements and issues text and phone call alerts to family members’ android cell phones within seconds.

SmartWatch users can also summon help with a simple push of a button. In addition, it automatically records these unusual movements and generates reports, which can be securely accessed for later review by your doctor.  For full information, go to: http://www.smart-monitor.com/smartwatch/about-smartwatch/

Another article of interest: Memory games to boost your brain  https://epilepsytalk.com/2012/03/12/boost-your-brain-with-these-fun-games/

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  1. I think my memory may be getting worse because of the meds I take. they have been identified to have these possible side effects, so I don’t know what can be done.


    Comment by Alan — February 9, 2014 @ 2:46 PM

    • I do not think that there are any AEDs that do not rob us of our memories. I cannot even come up with the correct YEAR. But, I had a totally screwed neurologist. Finally, after all these years, an E.R. doc handed me a little pill in the little paper cups, and damn, here I am again. I’m hoping I did not offend any peeps here, and I do hope to keep waking up to a brand new world.


      Comment by meesher — February 17, 2014 @ 8:26 PM

      • How could you offend anyone here? We’re all in the same boat.

        And I hope you keep on waking up to a brand new (beautiful) world!


        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 17, 2014 @ 8:49 PM

      • waking up in a new world, however, is a double edged sword. sometimes I wake up and don’t remember things that are important things which I NEED to remember.


        Comment by Alan — February 17, 2014 @ 9:11 PM

      • but now, as u can see, I forgot that I made practically this same comment before.


        Comment by Alan — February 17, 2014 @ 9:40 PM

  2. Sigh. I think that’s a problem for us all. That’s why I wrote this article. As a feeble attempt to help.

    However, there IS a bright side.

    When I mess up, I blame it on the meds! At least, it’s a handy excuse! 🙂


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 9, 2014 @ 3:29 PM

    • excuse, maybe. but it’s an annoyance when you forget something important, or at least something I consider important. But at least I can find humor in my forgetfulness


      Comment by Alan — February 9, 2014 @ 9:53 PM

  3. I’ll just say “I forgot. I’ve had a head injury, ya know….”


    Comment by Alan — February 9, 2014 @ 9:58 PM

  4. PERFECT!!! 🙂


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 10, 2014 @ 10:25 AM

  5. I have been wondering lately if i might be building a tolerance to my anti seizure meds. I don’t know if this might happen, do you?


    Comment by Alan — February 10, 2014 @ 11:18 AM

  6. Yes.

    It may be the dose prescribed…the type of epilepsy you have…even something as simple as your age or weight. But research shows that, over time, the effectiveness of your anti-epilepsy drug may decline.

    Almost all first, second and third-generation epilepsy drugs lose their efficacy after prolonged treatment. Perhaps it’s because your metabolism builds up a tolerance to the drug. And ramping up the dosage can work. Or it may be a functional tolerance where your brain receptors have become resistant to the drug. In that case, a change in medications may help. But whatever the cause, you’re not alone…

    There’s more detail in this article…

    Anti-Epilepsy Drugs Lose Effectiveness Over Time…



    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 10, 2014 @ 1:35 PM

    • thank you for the info. since I’ve been on this regiman for 10 plus years and have been increasing the dosage thru time, I’ve nearly reached the max. i’ll talk to my dr about it next time I see her and see what she thinks we should do. thanks again for the article.


      Comment by Alan — February 10, 2014 @ 2:35 PM

  7. my dr said that if I tried to change my meds, it might make my clumsiness worse or my seizur4e condition worse, so I still need to try to find the right amounts of each med to work for me.


    Comment by Alan — February 17, 2014 @ 9:58 PM

  8. You know, the good news is that there are so many meds to choose from.

    When I was first diagnosed, it was Phenobarbital or Dilantin, period. (And I went into a coma from a toxic level of Dilantin. They didn’t do blood tests back then either.)

    But with all these many meds, now it’s a crap shoot. And definitely scary. Because you have to grit your teeth for six weeks and see.

    But sometimes you have to stand that trial, to find what works for you.

    I kissed many frogs until I found my “magical med mix”.

    But it was worth it. Because in the end, I found it (Lamictal and Klonopin) and my seizures are controlled.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 18, 2014 @ 9:47 AM

    • I was also on phenobarb back in the 1980’s, mostly precautionary. But as I got into my 40’s, I started having seizures in the early to mid 2000’s. After testing many different meds, I settled on keppra lamictal combo. but dy dr isn’t ready to add another med yet. i don’t know what a deciding factor would be.


      Comment by Alan — February 18, 2014 @ 11:08 AM

  9. Have you had any blood work yet? That may help.

    Also keeping a daily seizure diary of your sleeping habits, daily activities, emotions (good or bad), time you take your meds, how you feel before a seizure, occurance of seizures and duration (if possible). Plus how you feel afterwards.

    That MIGHT be a clue.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 18, 2014 @ 2:36 PM

    • I haven’t had blood work recently. I don’t know exactly what that would show other than the levels of keppra and lamictall in my blood. it wouldn’t show the efficacy of the 2, would it?


      Comment by Alan Bishop — February 18, 2014 @ 9:38 PM

  10. It will tell the levels of the two drugs in your system, which would then be measured by their therapeutic level and effectiveness.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 19, 2014 @ 9:52 AM

    • I just know that drugs work differently on different folks. I even went thru research on talampanel, which didn’t work for me. so if bloodwork will indicate effectiveness, I wonder why my doc hasn’t wanted mine done?


      Comment by Alan Bishop — February 19, 2014 @ 12:05 PM

  11. Because he’s stupid. Otherwise, he should just be changing your meds, if it doesn’t work for you.

    Maybe if you kept a daily seizure diary which notes sleep patterns, activities during the day, emotions (good and bad), time your meds are taken, times of seizures (and if you can) the duration, it will convince him this isn’t working for you.

    And you might insist on blood work and ask why he doesn’t think the blood work is necessary.

    After all, he is not GOD and you ARE the patient.

    Good luck Alan!


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 19, 2014 @ 12:21 PM

    • thank u. i’ll see what I can do.
      p.s. I’ve even been seeing 2 doctors that work together.


      Comment by Alan Bishop — February 19, 2014 @ 12:45 PM

  12. Now, that’s a GOOD thing!


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 19, 2014 @ 1:01 PM

    • I’m questioning how good it is, now. TWO doctors haven’t suggested any bloodwork?


      Comment by Alan Bishop — February 19, 2014 @ 2:10 PM

  13. Sigh.

    Well then YOU have to bring it up and be your own advocate.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 19, 2014 @ 3:19 PM

  14. After having my dominant temporal lobe and hippocampus removed I was told by my neurosurgeon that I should keep a notepad with me at all times, even to remember where I am going when I leave my house. It has not been as bad as the doctors had originally thought. Follow up testing, after my surgery in 1993, showed my biggest issue was verbal memory, especially names. I read several books on improving memory. However, as mentioned above, what seems to help the most is going through the ABC’s. If I can get the first letter than I generally can come up with the full name/answer.


    Comment by Lorie Shumate — April 18, 2015 @ 2:50 PM

  15. For me, it takes the first AND second letter. I guess I have to sharpen those skills. Among others. 🙂


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — April 18, 2015 @ 5:56 PM

    • Hey! I’m still alive! A week or so ago, the crash cart crash- carted me and took me away to the damn hospital again. This time I had a fever of 104, had pneumonia and was also having a damn seizure. Again. Any of those things could have given me a seizure. Damn. I don’t remember most of it, but my roomie, a woman who I think had cancer, solely because the one time I saw her she had a bald head and no eyelashes, had a man inside of her curtained enclosure. I don’t know what to do about it. If she or he had asked me if I minded, I probably would have said I was cool with it, even though I was not, just because I know that I had to push the nurse “call” button every time I had to get to my bathroom–I refuse to use the non flushing commode (sp?) I heard them (hey, it’s a curtain, not a wall) talking about where he had slept last night (in his car where it was freezing cold) and then in the little room they call “the chapel” (where the nursing staff colluded with him by moving a recliner chair into it) and one night I KNOW he slept on the other side of the curtain because he snored. I was there for 5 nights. He never bathed or shaved or changed his clothing. I heard that she was inside the hospital because she broke her arm and it split and fractured and had no where else to stay that night….now I am ashamed of myself for thinking that my husband worked and works his ass off so that I have health insurance and this woman and her boyfriend were literally screwing behind the curtain and I was awakened by all the damn racket. I know that my hospital does NOT carry my AED which really ticks me off since I have been there so many times without it. Now Jim just tapes it to my body–oh, that was the post-it mention that I started to type about. I stick post it notes to my physical body, or my jammies or even use a safety pin to pin the note to my pocket, so that people will know I need help. I’m still thinking of getting a tee shirt that says “head injury, not stupid!” OR “epilepsy, not stupid”That is all. What should I say about the man in my hospital room for 5 days—and the staff helping him. I think that the damn hospital should let me in on that action of keeping him warm and dry and sleeping with his GF for the entire time. The worst part was having no underwear. On the last day, jim finally brought in a bra and panties. I was naked under my hospital gown. I leaned my panties down to my socked foot, and got one foot in, and looked up to see the door to the room open and there HE WAS AGAIN! It was definitely not inside of hospital visiting time. So what did he see? I was so happy to have sprung from the place that I just started giggle-ing. What else could I do???????


      Comment by meesher — April 18, 2015 @ 9:07 PM

  16. Sounds like you had a hard time there. How about, a tattoo? 🙂

    Although, I admit I’m, a post-it girl myself. But maybe you need MORE!


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — April 19, 2015 @ 9:33 AM

  17. my handwriting is so bad that if i wrote myself a note the trick would be reading it later.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Alan Bishop — April 22, 2015 @ 2:16 PM

  18. Lol! Thanks for my first giggle of the day! 🙂


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — April 22, 2015 @ 4:24 PM

  19. My new addition is dry-erase boards! I write food/household running lists I can see (along with the one that goes to the store, if I get a ride). And there are reminders to puff (inhaler), take my meds (along with alarm timers on my smartfone), to turn off the faucets, the stove, and lights, and what brand kitty litter Harriet likes at the moment. And whatever else seems important. They can be cleaned off with almost anything, and last forever–I’ve got three, and one’s several years old. I also use small bungee cords and little cute clips to hang things I need to have right away, hanging the little bungee cords over lights (carefully) and drawer and door handles, using the clips to attach the papers to the bungee cord, until I’ve taken care of the item. Did my vote-by-mail that way! I never apologize for what I don’t always remember, though. My thinking is, I work on remembering what is needed most in my life to live it first–to care for myself and my cat, do the daily things like pay bills, keep things reasonably decent, take meds, etc. If there are other things and people’s interests I can recall or deal with, fine. If not, well, it’s the things I cannot change that come with what I’m given to deal with, and that’s the way life is. I’m cool with that.


    Comment by catsissie — June 5, 2016 @ 8:54 PM

  20. Wait a minute Cat, you’re waaaay ahead of me.

    First of all, you can’t take dry-erase boards with you. On the other hand, I can put post-its everywhere and on everything. (Even myself if worse comes to worse.)

    The bungee cord idea is totally brilliant. (With a bit of personal flair!) I’m sure the clips add some zip to it too.

    I dunno. I don’t think you can teach a 63 year-old-cat new tricks. (No offense Harriet.)

    But what we do agree on is: Priorities. Do the most and the best that we can.

    The rest is icing on the cake.

    Thanks for reminding me of that.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 5, 2016 @ 10:54 PM

  21. Hi Phyllis,

    This is my first time commenting but I have been following posts for two years. I had a one time tonic clonic seizure in January 2015. However, I was told by my neurologist that the “episodes” I was having for two years up to the volcano erupting, as he called it, were partial focal seizures. I have been on a generic Keppra since then. While I do experience all the memory problems most people have posted on this site, my husband and sisters have similar problems and they have never had seizures. We are all in our 60’s experiencing age related forgetfulness.

    My big concern is the memory recall problem I have been experiencing. Last week, I went to change the laundry in the basement. A little later, I could not find the basket of laundry to fold. My husband found it in the basement. I have no memory recall of even coming upstairs without the laundry. Two hours later, I returned to the basement to switch the laundry again. When I went to take the wet clothes from the washer, they were dry. I never ran the washer and the lid was closed. Why I did not run the washer nor why I walked upstairs without the dry clothes are mysteries to me. It has bothered me all week. My Internet research showed left temporal lobe seizures (which is what I had) can affect the recall part of the memory.

    Since my mother had Lewy Body Dementia, I fear I have a double whammy when it comes to losing my memory. Post it’s and the Don’t lose it basket have been part of my life for the last few years and do help. However, not having any recall of something I did only an hour ago has me really concerned.



    Comment by Helen — November 20, 2016 @ 10:49 PM

  22. Yes, you can’t live on post-its alone.

    Here’s an explanation of what your memory does:

    Epilepsy and Memory


    And here are some exercises to help your memory.

    (They do work. A friend of mine successfully used them with brain damage!)

    Memory games to boost your brain


    I hope these help in some way, Helen.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — November 21, 2016 @ 7:03 AM

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    About the author

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    I've been a professional copywriter for over 35 years. I also had epilepsy for decades. My mission is advocacy; to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. Together, we can make a huge difference. If not changing the world, at least helping each other, with wisdom, compassion and sharing.

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