Some people with MS experience some changes in their cognition, not everyone will experience cognitive issues and if they do, not everyone will experience the same ones. Common cognitive issues include:
Reduced attentiveness – This is where you may struggle to maintain attention to a task, this can be particularly difficult if you are working and the development of these cognitive issues impacts your performance
Memory – Some people experience some memory loss or find it difficult to recall information
Word finding – Difficulty finding the right words to say can be frustrating
Problem solving – It can become hard to figure out how to solve a task or where to start. This difficulty with planning can be stressful and exasperating.
These symptoms can be very worrying and scary, especially when thinking about the future and what it may hold. But it is important to recognise that there is help available and there is a wealth of advice in how to manage cognitive impairments. Everyone is different so advice may work for some and not others but trying different techniques is the first stage in managing these symptoms and maintaining a high quality of life and emotional wellbeing.
How to deal with changes in cognition
- Make records: Write things down, record them, take pictures. This can all help in recalling what has happened during the day and what you need to do
- Reminders: set an alarm on your phone, put post stick notes around your house, ask a cloud-based device such as Alexa to set a reminder
- Write a diary: this is a great way of recording your day and what has happened, you may want to keep it with you and write the diary in small sections during the day
- Establish a routine: having a day to day routine will help in your day to day management
- Use assistive devices such as medication prompts
- Create task lists: for example, when you go shopping, or a jobs list for around the house
- Use a calendar: this will help you keep track of what is going on in your life as well as your families.
- One task at a time: if you struggle to concentrate try reducing the number of things you are doing in one go. Complete one thing at a time
- Reduce distractions: Turn off the TV, turn off your phone, use a quiet room to help increase your focus and concentration on a task
- Rest: Make sure you are getting a good night’s sleep, sleep is essential in helping the brain to work to its full capacity
- Pace yourself: don’t do everything at once, break tasks down into smaller more manageable amount’s so you don’t feel overwhelmed or stressed. Stress can reduce cognitive performance.
- Be honest: If you are struggling to follow a conversation be honest with friends or family, ask them to speak slower and not over one another.
- Give yourself time: If you need time to gather your thoughts in a conversation do so, tell people you need extra time to respond
- Use other words: if you struggle to find a word, try use other words to describe it
- Relax: feelings of stress, anxiety, frustration all exacerbates cognitive problems. Work out ways to help you relax, take plenty of breaks, walk, listen to music. Taking time during your day to relax will help to recuperate your thoughts.
Mindfulness can be a useful tool, it helps you develop the tools to be more present in the moment, helping to improve overall wellbeing. The NHS provide an online course to help you in developing these skills