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43 More Functional Memory Tasks for Adults

Memory! The bread-and-butter treatment for many speech therapy professionals working with adults.

Here are 43 MORE functional memory tasks to use with your adult speech therapy patients.

The tasks are organized by memory strategy and severity. This way, you can increase the complexity of each task as your patient’s memory improves!

For functional memory worksheets and handouts, check out the Adult Speech Therapy Starter Pack!

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How to Use Functional Memory Tasks

how to use functional memory tasks

First, teach your patient the memory strategies. These are the tools your patient will use during memory tasks, and then in their daily lives.

Patients can learn each strategy by first practicing them during a simple, controlled task. For example, they may get the feeling of “taking mental pictures” by practicing on a visual scene.

Once the patient can demonstrate the strategy with simple tasks, introduce functional tasks. Such as taking a mental picture to memorize the layout of a new room or building.

Use materials that are interesting and/or salient to the patient. For example, if asking a patient to read aloud, find a Wikipedia page or interesting news article about the patient’s hobbies, hometown, or job.

Or, even easier, use what the patient already has on hand! Such as a novel or letter they’ve been meaning to read.

Memory Strategies

speech therapy memory strategies

Here are 5 frequently used (and effective!) memory strategies

  1. Write it down. Take notes. Use a calendar to help you remember appointments.

  2. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Say what you want to remember, such as a person’s name, over and over again.

  3. Take mental pictures. Visualize what you want to remember, such as where you left your keys. Take a mental snapshot and store it away in your brain.

  4. Use associations. Connect what you want to remember with what you already know.

  5. Use groups. Organize what you want to remember into smaller groups, such as your grocery list by produce and canned goods.

Functional Memory Tasks for Write It Down

Severe Memory Impairments

functional memory tasks

When using write it down for patients with severe memory impairments, visual aids are the way to go! Help your patients get into the habit of referring to visual aids in order to answer basic orientation or repetitive questions.

Provide as many cues as your patients needs for each step of the task in order to increase their confidence, enhance learning, and avoid frustration.

1. Orientation with a calendar.

Provide a calendar for a single month. Ask the patient to fill out the year, month, dates, holidays, important events, and important appointments.

Then, ask them questions about what they just wrote down.

For example, “What year is it? What day of the week is it? What’s tomorrow’s date?”

2. Daily schedule.

Provide a daily schedule worksheet. Ask your patient to fill out the times and events.

Then, ask them questions about what they just wrote down.

For example, “What time was breakfast? Do you eat dinner before speech therapy? When time did you wake up?”

3. Memory Book.

memory book for dementia

Provide the caregiver with a Memory Book template. See our Memory Book post for a free Memory Book Template PDF and tips on how to create and use it.

After filing out the Memory Book with the caregiver, ask the patient questions.

For example, “Where do you live (Location page)? Why were you in the hospital (Purpose page)? Who is that person (Family page)?”

4. Daily Journal.

Ask your patient to fill out a Daily Journal Worksheet. Provide cues and use other visual aids as needed.

Next, ask them questions about what they just wrote down.

For premade patient handouts and worksheets, visit our shop!

5. Spaced retrieval with visual aids.

Use spaced retrieval to help your patient remember basic safety information that’s written down.

For example, you can help them remember to read their surgical precautions or to use their call light, clock, calendar, or safe swallowing strategies posted in their room.

Moderate Memory Impairments

functional memory tasks

For patients with moderate memory impairments, use write it down with these functional tasks.

Continue to provide cues, as needed.

1. Orientation with a calendar.

Provide a calendar for a single month. Ask the patient to fill out the year, month, dates, holidays, important events, and important appointments.

To make these calendar activities more fun, add fun dates such as their pet’s birthday or a fun holiday (International Joke Day is July 1!)

Next, ask them questions about what they just wrote down.

For example, “How many days have you been here (inpatient settings)? How many Saturdays are in this month? How many days until your appointment?”

2. Remember information during appointments.

Your patient likely has a lot of medical appointments. Use an Appointment Notes Worksheet to help them prepare and remember what’s said during the appointment.

Feel free to copy and paste the worksheet below to use with your patients.

Appointment Notes
Fill in #1-3 before your appointment. Fill in #4 during your appointment.

Date of appointment: _______________


1. Symptoms. What symptoms are you experiencing that you think you should tell the doctor about? (e.g., My headaches are getting worse. My pain’s okay. I’m sometimes dizzy when I stand up.)


2. Relevant history. What have you experienced recently that you think your doctor should know about? (e.g., I have physical, occupational, and speech therapy 3x each week. I started eating crunchy foods. I walked around the block for the first time since the stroke.)


3. Questions. What questions or requests do you have for the doctor? (e.g., When can I get off my pain meds? What is my prognosis? Why are my headaches getting worse?)


4. Answers and notes. Jot down keywords and other notes as your doctor speaks with you. Ask the doctor to repeat themselves if you forget while writing.

3. Remember people’s names.

Provide a Remembering People’s Names template. Ask the patient to write down the person’s name and 1-2 identifying details.

For example, “Chung: speech therapist. Jose: head nurse, long hair. Emily: nurse aide, very funny.”

Next, ask the patient questions about what they just wrote down.

For example, “What does Chung do? Who is the funny nurse aide? What does Jose look like?”

4. Medication List.

Provide a Medication List template. Ask the patient to write as you dictate the medication name, purpose, and times taken.

Then, ask them questions about what they just wrote down.

For example, “What is your blood pressure medication? What does Flomax help with? When do you take Flomax?”

5. Daily journal.

Provide a Daily Journal worksheet. Ask your patient to fill it out and to include details. Providing patient cues and use other visual aids, as needed.

For example, if the patient wrote, “I ate breakfast before going to physical therapy,” prompt them to add details about what they ate for breakfast or what they did in physical therapy.

Mild Memory Impairments

Use these tasks for patients with mild memory impairments. Use the write it down strategy with each task. Provide cues as needed.

1. Grocery list.

Provide a blank piece of paper or prompt the patient to use a notes app on their cellphone. Ask them to write down a grocery list for 1 week’s worth of food.

For example, “What kind of sauce do you use with spaghetti? What do you usually have for breakfast? Do you take anything in your tea?”

For inpatients, ask them to create a grocery list of what they would normally eat at home.

2. To-do list.

Provide a blank piece of paper. Ask the patient to write down a to-do list for today, tomorrow, this week, and/or next week.

For example: “Do speech therapy homework for 15 minutes. Call insurance company about surgery post-op. Meet with Fred for lunch.”

In a later session, ask the patient what they were or weren’t able to accomplish on their to-do list.

3. Appointment times on calendar/planner.

monthly calendar for memory tasks

Provide a monthly calendar. Ask the patient to write down all appointments, including therapy appointments.

In a later session, review the calendar with the patient to check whether they wrote down their appointments. Encourage them to do so, as needed.

4. Medication list.

Provide a Medication List template. Ask the patient to write the list as you dictate the medication name, purpose, dosage, times taken, and other notes.

Next, ask them questions about what they just wrote down.

For example, “What medications do you take with food? What medications do you take in the evening? What are those medications for? Why shouldn’t you take Flomax in the evenings?”

5. Daily journal.

Provide a Daily Journal worksheet. Ask your patient to fill it out with as much detail as possible.

Next, review what they wrote down, prompting them to add even more details, as needed.

For example, if the patient wrote, “My right knee was a little sore after physical therapy, but it started to feel better after dinner,” ask them, “What did you do in physical therapy? What were you doing after therapy, when your knee was a little sore?”


Be encouraging and light. Your there to help with memory, not to interrogate them!

6. Taking notes.

Ask the patient to write down notes (key words and phrases) as you read information aloud. Use reading material that’s salient to the patient. For example, read recipes aloud to bakers or an article from an auto magazine for a car enthusiast.

Next, ask your patient to read what they wrote down. Repeat key excerpts as needed so that the patient can catch any words or phrases they may have missed.

Functional Memory Tasks for Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

memory strategies for dementia

Severe Memory Impairments

Use these tasks to teach the repeat, repeat, repeat strategy to patients with severe memory impairments.

1. Orientation information with spaced retrieval.

Use spaced retrieval to help your patient remember basic orientation information.

For example, you may ask, “Why were you in the hospital?” to which they respond, “I fell and hit my head.”

2. Safety information with spaced retrieval.

Help your patient remember basic safety precautions.

For example, “What should you do if you want to get out of bed?” to which they respond, “Use my call light.”

Moderate Memory Impairments

remembering people's names speech therapy

Use repeat, repeat, repeat and the following tasks for patients with moderate memory impairments.

1. Remembering people’s names.

Visit a room with many people or present a page with people’s photos. Immediately after learning someone’s name, prompt the patient to repeat the name at least twice.

One minute later, point to a person (when the person is out of earshot!) or photo and ask for their name, providing cues as needed.

2. Reading material.

Ask the patient to read a paragraph aloud.

Next, ask them to summarize what they just read. Continue until a total of ~5 paragraphs have been read, summarizing after each paragraph.

After ~5 paragraphs, ask them to summarize all of the information.

3. Memorize the memory strategies.

Provide a list of the 5 memory strategies. Ask the patient to say the names of the strategies aloud, over and over. When they’re ready, ask them to recite the 5 memory strategies from memory.

Use spaced retrieval and continue to ask the patient to recite the memory strategies, referring to visual aids as needed.

4. Memorize the medication names.

Provide an updated medication list. Ask the patient to say their medications out loud, using whatever name (generic/brand name) is easier for them to remember. When they feel ready, ask them to recite their medications from memory.

If they’re taking many medications, consider starting with 5-7 medications.

Use spaced retrieval and continue to ask the patient to recite their medications, referring to visual aids as needed.

Mild Memory Impairments

functional memory tasks pdf

For patients with mild impairments, use repeat, repeat, repeat with the following tasks.

1. Remembering instructions.

Read a set of instructions that have 5-7 key words or steps.

Then, ask the patient to repeat the instructions in their own words. Continue for 4 more sets of instructions.

Next, ask the patient to repeat back instructions from the first set.

For example, if the instructions were, “Take I-5 South and exit Mercer Street. Turn right at the first light,” prompt the patient to remember by saying, “Tell me where to go on I-5.”

2. Memorize lists.

Provide a list containing ~20 items, for example a grocery lists or packing list for an international flight. Ask the patient to memorize the list, use the memory strategy use groups as needed.

Then, ask the patient to repeat the entire list.

3. Memorize medications.

Provide the patient’s medication list, including the medication name, purpose, dosage, times taken, and any notes (eat with meals, drink with 8 oz of water, etc). Ask the patient to repeat all of the information for each medication over and over.

Then, ask your patient questions about their medication list.

For example, “What is your blood pressure medication? What medications do you take both morning and night? Why do you take aspirin?”

4. Memorize new skills.

task analysis memory treatment

An important component of Task Analysis is repetition. To help your patient learn a new skill, (such as how to use technology gifted by family members, like an iPad or Netflix subscription) repeat this new skill over and over.

For example, your patient was gifted an iPhone for their birthday. They enjoy FaceTiming with their family, but don’t know how to initiate a call.

Use task analysis to break down this task into separate steps, then ask them to repeat the entire task over and over.

Functional Memory Tasks for Take Mental Pictures

practical memory activities

Severe Memory Impairments

Use these memory tasks to teach the take mental pictures strategy to patients with severe memory impairments.

1. Remember location of visual aid.

Relying on written information can be especially helpful for people with chronic or severe memory impairments.

Instead of asking them to memorize a lot of visual information, ask them to remember where their visual aids are located.

Your goal is to create a habit of looking at the clock, calendar, or brightly colored handout for orientation information, safety precautions, or repetitive questions.

For example, your patient often asks the time but forgets that they have access to a clock to answer their own question.

Using a mixture of spaced retrieval and taking mental pictures, train the patient to remember, “the red clock is above the TV,” using at max 3 visual descriptors (in this case, “red”, “above”, and “TV”).

Practice looking in the correct direction and reading the time together.

2. Remember location of important items.

Similar to locating visual aids, help the patient get organized and remember where favorite items are located. These items may include phones, TV remotes, lunch menus, or memory books.

Practice placing the item in a specific place (encourage other caregivers to do the same!), then use spaced retrieval and take mental pictures to remember visual information.

For example, you may prompt, “Where is the phone?” to which they respond, “The phone is next to the lamp,” while looking at the phone and the lamp.

Moderate Memory Impairments

For patients with more moderate memory impairments, use the take mental pictures strategy with these tasks.

1. Remember pictured information.

memory activities for adults

Introduce the concept of taking mental pictures by providing a paper with ~5 line drawings. Ask the patient to study the placement of the pictures. For example, the tree is in the top left corner of the page, the car is in the middle, etc.

Next, ask your patient to study the pictures in relation to one another. For example, the dog is below the tree and to the left of the car.

Finally, ask your patient to describe the paper from memory, providing cues as needed.

2. Remember visual scenes.

Image from amyspeechlanguagetherapy.com

Provide a visual scene, something similar to the Cookie Theft Picture or another line drawing. Ask the patient to study ~5 key components of the picture.

For example, the mother is on the right, the son is in the middle, he’s on the stool, the daughter is on the left.

Next, ask your patient to study the details of the picture.

For example, the mother is holding a plate and a cloth, the son has one cookie in each hand, etc.


Finally, ask your patient to describe the visual scene from memory. Provide cues as needed.

3. Improving navigation.

For inpatients, provide a copy of their floor’s map. These are often located near exits, elevators, and stairs (take a cell phone photo).

Locate their room on the map, then ask them to memorize the layout and location of their room in relation to other rooms, such as the dining hall or reading room.

For example, “My room is next to the nurse’s station and the dining hall is northwest of me.”


Finally, ask them to describe or draw key locations, such as their room, hallways leading to other rooms, exits, etc.

Mild Memory Impairments

functional memory tasks

Use take mental pictures with the following tasks for your patients with mild memory impairments.

1. Remember written information.

Provide a magazine, advertisement, patient questionnaire, or other page-level written information. Ask the patient to read the information, noting keywords as they read.

For example, the first paragraph of a magazine article discusses “sea levels,” and the second quotes a “scientist from Stanford.”

Next, ask them to summarize what they read, pointing to keywords as they go.

Finally, ask the patient to describe or point to where the keyword “sea levels” was located on the page.

This task is especially handy for patients who read a lot of medical, insurance, or bill-related mail. Taking mental pictures as they read can help them remember where they read certain information and locate the correct paper as needed.

This can make managing mail less overwhelming!

2. Remember location of important items.

Increase the complexity of this task by asking the patient to remember items that are moved after using it, such as glasses or coffee cups.

Once they set an item down, train them to take a mental picture by describing what they see around the item.

For example, “My glasses are next to my papers, which are under the brown lamp.”

Functional Memory Tasks for Use Associations

Severe Memory Impairments

functional memory tasks

Teach your patients with severe memory impairments the use associations strategy with the activity below.

1. Direct associations.

Train patients with severe memory impairments to make and remember 1:1 connections between a concrete item and important information. This information can be about safety, orientation, visual aids, etc.

This helps keep information simple and clear.

For example, the concrete item “red paper” can be connected with the word “safety.” So all their safety-related information (use the call light, don’t bear weight on your left leg, wear your glasses, etc) is written on red paper.

Repeatedly use the word “red” or show the color red whenever speaking about safety.

Or the question, “What time is it?” can be associated with “clock” by showing them a clock whenever they ask that question.

These may seem obvious, but if your patient isn’t making these basic connections, this type of training can greatly reduce confusion.

Moderate Memory Impairments

functional memory activities SNF

These 3 tasks are appropriate for patients with moderate memory impairments using the use associations strategy.

1. Remember medication names and purposes.

After the patient memorizes their medication names, train them to memorize the purpose of each medication by creating an association.

Funny or ridiculous associations can work well.

For example, “SimvaSTATin helps with FAT‘n cholesterol.”

2. Remember people’s names.

Help the patient remember a new person’s name by connecting it to someone with the same or similar name.

For example, “Ted was the name of my son’s best friend growing up.” Ask your patient to think of his son’s-friend-Ted when greeting occupational-therapist-Ted.

Or, help them make a funny or ridiculous association for the name.

For examine, “CHUNG rhymes with TONGUE. You need your tongue to SPEAK. You’re the SPEECH therapist!”

(A real association made by a former patient! So proud.)

3. Remember pictured information.

Provide a page containing ~5 items. Ask the patient to create associations between the pictured items.


For example, you present a picture of a TREE, CAR, DOG, ACORN, and HAMMER. Ask the patient to make up a story about the items.

Stories are easier to remember than random facts, as people inherently use associations to create a cohesive plot. Humor further helps with memory.

In this example, the story may be, “The ACORN fell out of the TREE. I broke it open with a HAMMER as a DOG ran by chasing a CAR.”


Finally, ask them to repeat the story, then only the items.

Mild Memory Impairments

speech therapy memory activities pdf

Use the use associations strategy with the following memory tasks.

1. Remember people’s names.

Provide a list of at least 5 people (with or without photos). Then, ask your patient to create associations for each person.

For example, if the patient is memorizing the names of people on their healthcare team, the patient can associate the person’s name with their discipline.

Other associations include the person’s personality or looks. Encourage the patient to be sensitive to the person while completing these types of associations!

2. Remember details.

Help the patient memorize details they commonly encounter in daily life. This could include phone numbers, cooking measurements, directions, and other daily information they may receive, on-the-fly.

For example, if the patient wants to better memorize phone numbers, ask them to, “Imagine writing down the number in your head.” This helps create a mental picture association.

For a patient who loses their place while cooking, have them memorize measurements by setting them to a jingle or a tune. For example, sing “three quarters” to the tune of “jingle bells” as they measure 3/4 cup of flour.

Functional Memory Tasks for Use Groups

Moderate Memory Impairments

memory strategies speech therapy
Sample page from The Adult Speech Therapy Starter Pack

Here are moderate memory impairment tasks to use with the use groups strategy.

1. Remember pictured items.

Present 12 line drawings randomly placed on a piece of paper. The drawings will include 4 items each from 3 separate categories.

For example, 4 different types of fruit, 4 different types of vehicles, and 4 different animals.

Ask the patient to identify the groups and group items.

Next, ask them to repeat the group and group items.

Finally, ask them to recall all of the items.

2. Remember lists.

functional memory activities cognitive treatment



Present a list of ~15 items from 3-5 categories.

For example, if it’s a grocery list, include 3 vegetables, 3 fruits, 3 dairy products, 3 canned foods, and 3 frozen foods.

Ask the patient to identify the groups and group items.

Next, ask them to repeat the group and group items.

Finally, ask them to recall all of the items.

Mild Memory Impairments

For patients with mild memory impairments, use the use groups strategy with the following tasks.

1. Remember auditory instructions.

Read instructions aloud. Each instruction should contain ~7 keywords. Ask the patient to chunk each instruction into, at max, 3 parts.

For example, you say, “Preheat the oven to 350, grease a large pan, and beat 2 eggs in a bowl” (7 keywords).

Then, ask your patient to separate the instructions into ~3 chunks. In this case, “preheat the oven to 350” is a chunk, “grease a large pan” is another chunk, and “beat 2 eggs in a bowl” is the final chunk.

Next, ask your patient to memorize the keywords in each chunk using another strategy (likely repetition).

Finally, ask your patient to repeat the chunks and full instructions, ensuring that they also recall the keywords.

2. Remember reading material.

Read page-level information aloud, such as a novel or article. After every paragraph, ask the patient to summarize what you just read.

After finishing 1-2 pages, ask the patient to summarize all that was read, in the order that it was read. Provide cues as needed.

Memory Worksheets & Handouts

For all of the worksheets mentioned in this post—and much more!—check out our shop!

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