Alcohol damages the brain and some alcoholics may have memory problems.

Below – Areas of the brain potentially damaged by alcohol and the faculty affected.


Alcoholics with moderate to severe alcohol related brain injury (ABI) are often assisted by professional healthcare workers, others may need to use self-help strategies.

Many people – with or without memory impairment – rely on external memory aids. For example, some people use diaries to remember appointments, others use lists to go shopping or alarms to remind them of a cake in the oven. People with ABI can benefit from a range of memory aids, and can be encouraged to find an aid or combination of aids that works best for them. The strategies for improving memory need to be adapted for each individual person. Some strategies may not be relevant to some people with an ABI, and a strategy that works for one person may not work for another. You may need to be creative.


Making lists

Lists are a great way to ensure that nothing is forgotten (or extra is purchased like chocolate biscuits). It can be rewarding to cross out items when they are completed. Many people with ABI try to compensate by writing endless lists and notes. While this is good in practice, they should only be used as an aid, as lists are easily lost. It is a good idea to date the list.

Keeping a diary

Using a diary is a useful strategy as it reminds people what they have to do and can also act as a memory jogger for what they have done A diary can also act as a planner to record plans and goals for a day. A diary that allows for hourly entries can also be useful as a time management aid. However, not all people are able to use a diary. A diary can be a new concept to some and thus may rely on new learning, which may be tricky due to the ABI.

A useful strategy for people with mild to moderate ABI is to have them write a list of jobs to be done the next day and then to prioritise them and note in a diary.

One main advantage of a diary is that it can be carried everywhere. All people involved can assist the person with ABI by constantly asking them if they have their diary with them when making appointments. This will assist to establish routine.

Using a whiteboard

A whiteboard is a useful way to show a weekly, fortnightly or monthly timetable for people with severe ABI. A whiteboard can be placed in a prominent position (on the fridge, next to a phone, on the back of a door) and can clearly display all aspects of the routine. For people with severe ABI a whiteboard can also be good as it can display a day & date, reducing a person’s confusion.

Alarms & Timers

Alarms and timers can be a useful way to prompt people to look at their diary or take medication. Eventually the timer may be gradually withdrawn once a routine has been established.

One great reminder system is contained in “Microsoft Outlook”. Before implementing something as technical as this system the person with ABI should be computer literate and comfortable using a computer each day.

Another technical aid is the mobile or cell phone. There are thousands of apps available to assist people. This has the advantage of being with the person at all times and can be used discretely in public.

Other prompts

A common issue for people with an ABI is forgetting to take new medication. Medication can be placed next to something that the person uses each day (next to the kettle, next to the toothbrush) to act as a visual reminder to take the medication.

A plastic box can be purchased and medications can be pre-set into morning, lunch and later doses. Some chemists even do this for you.

Posters are also a good way of information being placed in prominent positions. Information is best presented where it is regularly seen (back of toilet door, back of front door, next to bathroom mirror, fridge door) to allow for repetitious learning.

Labels on drawers, doors, cupboards, etc are good prompts especially if moving into new accommodation or workplace.

Organise set places for things. For example, a bowl on the table near the door for keys, a tray on the dresser for glasses or phone, a hook on the wall for a handbag, etc. Make them in prominent places and label them.


Related Reading:

Alcohol Lied to Me : The Intelligent Way to Escape Alcohol Addiction
The Turmoil of Someone Else's Drinking
Nurse's Pocket Drug Guide 2012
Stop Drinking Start Living!