Memory Issues & Strategies

The inability to recall what someone has said or an activity that was just completed is highly frustrating. This type of memory, called short-term memory, is most commonly impaired following a brain injury. Short-term memory is the ability to store and recall information within a short period of time ( a few minutes to a few hours). Long-term memory refers to the ability to retain and recall information stored for long periods of time (days to years).

The most common challenges with memory following brain injury include:

Effective strategies include:

  • Be sure that the person is paying attention and make eye contact when giving directions.
  • Encourage the use of tangible written reminders or environmental cues (labels, checklists, color coding items based on task).
  • Teach the individual to use a daily calendar or planner to keep track of their day.
  • Use repetition as a strategy.
  • Foster the use of technology such as timers, cell phone apps and alarms as external strategies.


Emotions and memory are very closely tied together. Associating an emotion with a particular individual, location, or task may help the person recall it better. On the flip side, negative emotions can evoke strong responses from memory, such as those triggered with PTSD.

This video shows how important strategies can be when working with individuals with memory problems.

To learn more about accommodations:

Accommodating the Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury  created by the Ohio Valley Center for Brain Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation at Ohio State University (all rights reserved).