Eva Svoboda, PhD,1,2 Gillian Rowe, PhD,1,2 Kelly Murphy, PhD,1,2
1Neuropsychology and Cognitive Health Program, Baycrest Centre, Toronto, ON.
2Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON.
Memory problems can be devastating as they limit independent functioning and disrupt social, family, and occupational roles. One form of remembering, prospective memory - remembering to attend to a task or event in the future—is particularly vulnerable to disruption. Fortunately memory is not a singular ability and patients can learn to compensate for memory difficulties by using preserved memory systems. Combining smartphone technology with appropriate training techniques has been shown to be effective in supporting prospective memory function even in individuals with amnesia. We have evidence that such technology may be used in a similar fashion to promote memory in mild cognitive impairment with the aim of delaying or preventing dementia onset. Even in dementia, memory training or support in forming new habits and routines which tap into preserved memory systems can be effectively used to help patients learn new names, reduce repetitive questions and remain oriented to the present. The best prevention is early intervention. Older adults presenting with memory complaints, no matter how mild, should be directed to maintain, reestablish, or institute habits of organization and written reminders, both to support current memory functioning and to preserve functional independence into the future should their concerns turn out to be the early manifestations of a neurodegenerative condition.
Keywords: amnesia, technology, dementia, mild cognitive impairment, memory intervention.