Linda Elliott, a Speech and Language Pathologist spoke at the MS support meeting in Wasilla, AK about Cognitive Issues. Notes were taken by Stephanie Tinney.
Linda spoke about three issues speech therapists deal with when treating people with MS; Word Retrieval, Memory, Concentration.
Linda shared the keys to being successful in overcoming memory and concentration deficits:
• Know your strengths/weaknesses (may benefit from an evaluation from a Speech and Learning Pathologist)
• Creating strategies (same place for same object ie, car keys ALWAYS put in same purse pocket when not in use or wedding ring in same place when not on finger) That way even if you don’t remember putting them in that place, that place will always be the first place to look
• Organization (not multi-tasking)(Use To Do lists an periodically go back to the list to update it by crossing off done tasks
• Recorders are very helpful especially for doctor’s office.
Writing up the notes either by typing or by hand (in your own words) and listening to the recording again are helping reinforce the information learned.
• Using a single pad of paper that ALWAYS stays in that location (nightstand, by telephone). Sticky notes can be helpful but can be easily lost or misplaced.
• Computer/phone/wall calendars can be very useful but be careful not to have too many going. One master calendar is great.
• Reviewing that which you want to remember is best done when you are fresh and relaxed. For some that’s at night right before bed, others that’s first thing in the morning.
• Brain Age games 1 & 2 on Nintendo DS lite have simple math, reading and visual perceptual tasks. There are MANY other brain games/tasks available including crosswords and riddles, etc.
Linda Grace Cox suggested Lumosity games found at MSrelief.com
Various significant issues dealing with cognition were brought up by participants of the group there that day.
Linda commented that issues happen to ALL people with or without MS to varying degrees. Folks with MS may be more cognizant/hypersensitive to their particular issues.
• Stop pattern of issue by coming up with strategies once patterns are identified but before anticipated upcoming problem, ie, review pictures and names of people for upcoming reunion or meeting.
• Write down strategy needed or used
• Talk around the word until it comes into your mind
• Don’t be prideful (she said in very loving gentle way) on level of vocabulary used at different times (use simpler word choices when fatigued (tired) or during an exacerbation (attack)). You are not less intelligent!
Linda shared an analogy to illustrate MS’s effects on organizing language. She said it’s likened to a chest of drawers that are labeled socks, pants, shirts, etc. only the socks are in the pants drawer and the shirts are in the sock drawer, etc. The brain goes into retrieve socks only to find shirts instead. It takes time to reorganize and find what you are looking for. Linda suggested we talk around the word until we find it.
Linda also touched on the importance of family education. The family needs to understand that a person with MS is not “just being lazy” or are purposefully causing problems in communication.
She gave us “permission” to be who we are with our MS symptoms and to celebrate achievements, no matter how little or big.