Memory is our brain's ability to store information and recall it in the future. We use our memory to store all kinds of information such as people's names, important dates, recipes for cooking and routes to familiar places. There are two major forms of memory: short-term and long-term memory. Short-term memory is a small amount of information that is actively in use by our brain for a short time. For example, reading a phone number from a telephone book and then entering those numbers into a phone requires the use of short-term memory. In contrast, long-term memory is information that is stored for an extended time. For example, reminiscing about a vacation that happened several years ago requires the use of long-term memory.
If our memory is impaired, this can often have a functional impact on a person's lifestyle. Deficits in short-term memory can impact a person's ability to communicate. For example, they may not be able to rehearse long sentences during a conversation. A similar problem exists when reading a book. A person may have difficulty understanding longer sentences or paragraphs because they cannot store the information in their memory. Deficits of long-term memory also have functional consequences. For example, some people are not able to recognize faces, objects and landmarks. People with severe memory loss may not live independently as their ability to carry out daily roles and routines are disrupted.
Memory impairments can impact a person's ability to carry out their daily activities. An occupational therapist may treat clients using multiple approaches such as:
- Introduce compensatory strategies to tasks such as dialling a phone number
- Utilize repetition and routines to assist with the performance of activities
- Use an errorless learning approach to prevent learning of mistakes
- Recommend techniques that can help orient a person
- Educate a person and their family about memory impairments
Reference: Grieve, J. I. (2000). Neuropsychology for occupational therapists. Blackwell Pub.