Learning and Information Processing
Although repetition or memorization can result in learning without thinking about meaning, most learning is based on developing a deep understanding of concepts or mental images of people and events. When you think about something, you relate it to things you already know - either directly and concretely, or by analogy based on abstract knowledge. The thinking processes that take place in working memory require you to “pay attention” to the information and make sense of it; you do not necessarily have to intend to learn the information in order to store it in memory.
Many factors can disrupt the processing of new information. A busy environment can make it difficult to focus on the relevant information. If the information is presented too quickly, the processing may be interrupted. Fatigue also reduces information processing capacity. In these situations, simple things may be understood, but abstract concepts may not be.
As a caregiver, you may notice your loved one has difficulties in adopting new schedules or adjusting to new situations, or problems figuring out things that were previously well understood (e.g., technology and computers).
Some strategies are aimed at supporting learning, whereas other strategies are aimed at eliminating the need to learn and remember information.
- Minimize distractions when teaching a new skill or procedure.
- Minimize distractions if the individual is reading new instructions.
- Ensure you have the full attention of the individual prior to giving instructions.
- Provide extra time to read instructions.
- Summarize and review information frequently.
- Present information in different modes (e.g., read, listen, see)
- Give information slowly and in small quantities. Don’t give too much information at one time.
- Give the person enough time to think things through.
- Encourage questions.
- Discuss the information to be learned, connecting it to the loved one’s knowledge. This helps to activate the previous memory and make it ready to receive new information. .
- Use a small notebook or a hand-held digital recorder or other portable device to jot down things that must be recalled later. (See next tab.)
- Encourage the individual to make to-do lists.
- Post a calendar on the refrigerator with weekly events.
- Use day-of-the-week pill containers for medications.
- Place sticky notes in important areas around the house as reminders of tasks to be completed.
- Maintain a “map” of important household items and always put things in the same place.
- Do not vary routines unnecessarily. Practise them often.
- Use a ‘cuing’ system (e.g., an alarm watch, the calendar function on a smart phone or similar device) to remind the individual of a task that needs to be done at that time. Note: The technology used must be simple enough so that it can be used without frustration.
- Save new learning or complex tasks for times when the individual is well rested and energy levels are high.
Olympus DP-10 Digital Voice Recorder
A Digital Audio Recorder that merges simplicity with technology, the DP-10 features the simple design and operation of micro-cassette recorders but with the memory, recording quality, battery life and storage capacity of a digital device. The DP-10 is ideal for note-taking and dictation.
- Orientation to date and time - Many recorders have the date and time on them.
- Shopping list - Record what you need from the store and listen to it as you shop.
- Telephone numbers - When someone tells you a phone number, record it rather than write it down.
- Taking phone messages - Say the message into the recorder while on the phone instead of writing it down. The person on the phone can hear you and tell you if the message is correct.
- Caregiver communication - Make a list of things the loved one is to do during the day.
- Record a to-do list.
- Take notes in class - You can listen to the notes later as a review for learning or an upcoming exam.
- Record things to talk to the doctor about –“ I am dizzy in the morning; my foot hurts.”
- Record things the doctor says – “Take this medication three times a day with food; I want you to have these tests.”
- Record everyday information that need only be remembered for a short time – “I parked outside of Sears; take bus 129.”
- Way-finding instructions - “Walk down the corridor until you get to the end; turn right; walk until you get to room 38 on the right.”