Memory Issues Associated With Multiple Sclerosis

Memory Loss associated with MS

Is Memory Tripping You Up From MS?

One of my problems that I have noticed since being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis is losing a great deal of my memory. Seriously, I have totally blocked out different portions of my life as if I’ve never even lived through it. It is way too often that one of my children will start talking about a time that this happened or that happened only for me to sit there and have to admit that there is no memory of this event.

MS does have memory issues as a symptom and my doctor often asks me how I’m doing in this area; all I can do is laugh. Looking back, it seems like I can associate this to when the Multiple Sclerosis was at its worst or when going through a serious relapse. Often this is when I have had to increase a lot of my PRN medications such as pain or muscle relaxers. There are memories that never would I have ever thought I would forget, but sadly this has happened. These can be categorized as long term memories. Short term memory is now becoming an issue.

My husband has become use to me making lists for all sorts of things; they are all over the place. I have relied on timers to assist me when cooking on the stove top as well as the oven, or to water my flowers, to check on clothes out on the close line, etc. I can be boiling eggs then get busy with a different project, completely forgetting I have those cooking.  I just have to laugh when my husband will ask me to help him remember to do something. My usual response is “Really”?? Next I will tell him to put it on one of my lists. These lists can range from day to day of to-do, grocerys, remembering appointments for the week to special birthdays. I do carry a day planner for long range stuff but have found a smaller list of the week’s more important things to be easier such as ordering or picking up medications, grandchildren’s ballgames or school events, or even church related events for the week. I suppose we should buy stock in the “sticky note” business. Oh, that reminds me to add that to my shopping list. Someone asked me if I use color coded notes to assist me to what list which I am seeking. That is a great idea.

The crazy thing is that this forgetfulness seems to come and go. For instance, the other day I am having a conversation with a friend who told me her family was visiting Biloxi. That is a one of a kind name with everyone understanding that this is a city in Mississippi. For the life in me, I couldn’t remember where Biloxi was. Being embarrassed of this memory loss, I surly didn’t ask any questions about the area; I just let her talk. After getting off the phone, still not able to remember I had to look it up. I wanted to slap myself across the head, especially since it isn’t that far south from where I live. Any other time this would not be a problem. Most of you might be able to relate this experience of forgetting a name of someone who is standing right in front of you. You know it like the back of your hand but you simply can’t recall it at that given moment. It is totally frustrating when this happens! Needless to say, I don’t volunteer to introduce people to others for that very aggravating problem.

Again, this seems to vary in degrees of difficulty when I’m dealing with a relapse or extremely fatigued. The short term memory that is, but the long term memories are gone. Even when a loved one goes over what happened in full detail, nothing is recalled by me. Now I keep a journal and try documenting things that I don’t want to forget. Every picture developed has the date on the back and any memory associated with it for safe keeping. One of the benefits of having this condition though is I can re-read many of my books after a period of time. Even though I may remember the outcome or ending, there still seems to be many sections in the middle that seem brand new when I read again. I enjoy reading, so my husband just says this saves him money from purchasing a lot of new books, lol.

Whether it is all the medications that I have been on or the MS itself, or both, memory loss is definitely something that I struggle with.  Besides the use of notes, lists, or even timers, there are things I do that to help improve this condition. Exercise has been said to assist with cognitive disorders so that is something that I take advantage of on a daily basis. This includes walking and aquatic exercise which helps with the increase of cardiac output. Of course eating healthy with a lot of fresh vegetables and fruit in my diet and limiting foods heavy in sugar and fat. I play games for memory which makes me really concentrate on what I am doing. Talking out loud to myself about dates, scheduled appointments, and times assists me in nailing down a memory. I’ve also stopped doing several projects at the same time to limit what all I am trying to remember at that given time. The biggest tip I can give you is learning to stay on a schedule for getting up, going to bed, taking medications, etc. Getting enough sleep is important to improving your memory due to limiting fatigue. Taking medications at the same time each day prevents forgetting to take them. I know that at 8 am every day, there is something important I must do. Speaking of medications, I choose to use a pill box labeled Sunday-Saturday to keep me from questioning if I did take my meds on a particular day.

All in all, I try to keep humor about this problem; laughing helps keeps things in perspective and prevents me from spending unnecessary time blaming this disease or crying and making myself miserable. My motto is: LAUGHTER IS ALWAYS THE BEST MEDICINE!

MS Blogger and Multiple Sclerosis Activist shares her journey living with MS, tips for others living MS and her husband, Steve, offers his insight as a caregiver for MS.