Memory Strategies for Adults: Speech Therapy and Occupational Therapy

When treating memory deficits, your goal as a therapist is to help your patients to:

1) Improve their memory skills and/or

2) Compensate for memory loss

This article includes strategies for both.

We cover memory strategies plus practical memory tasks to use during treatment.

We even include a printable memory worksheet!

What We’ll Cover

1. How to Choose Memory Goals & Treatments


2. Memory Strategies


3. Practical Memory Tasks



4. Free Printable Memory Worksheet


4. More Resources

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How to Choose Memory Goals & Treatments

Keep it practical.

Focus on tasks that the patient was previously doing but can’t do now, such as remembering appointments. But keep their prognosis in mind.

For example, you may have a patient who is so severely impaired that they can only recall a few items at a time. If that’s the case, meet them where they’re at. Practical tasks can be as simple as recalling the date or practicing where to find the date.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are the patient’s goals?
  • What is the nature of their memory disorder? Is it acute? Progressive?
  • What’s their current level of functioning? Previous level of functioning?
  • How much support does the patient have?
  • How motivated are they?
  • How’s their insight into their deficits?
  • Do they have other relevant comorbidities or life complications?
  • Based on all of this, what’s their prognosis for making progress?

See our memory goal bank for more help.

Memory Strategies

Copy and print out the following strategies for your patient.

Or check out our 100+ page Memory Pack with printable home exercise programs, worksheets, and therapist treatment guides:

Memory Pack PDF Patient Handouts Worksheets Resources image 0

Printable Memory Pack

1) Pay Attention

Listen, look, and focus

2) Use Mental Pictures

Take a mental picture and store it in your brain. For example, visualize where you left your keys and take a mental picture.

3) Repeat and Rehearse

Repeat over-and-over what you have just learned, such as a new name or phone number.

4) Chunk and organize information

Sort information into categories. For example, organize your grocery list into groups, such as produce and canned foods.

5) Create associations

Make connections between what you want to remember and what you already know. For example, remember a new name by connecting it to someone with the same name.

Practical Memory Tasks

Copy and print these tasks for your patients. Or use them during your therapy session.

1) Write it Down

  • Take notes during appointments
  • Keep a daily journal
  • Use a calendar or planner to write down appointments
  • Jot down people’s names
  • Write a copy of your medication list
  • Make to-do lists, grocery lists, exercise lists, etc.
  • Use your phone to write down appointments, reminders, timers, and alarms
  • Use Amazon Echo for appointments, timers, and alarms
  • Use effective worksheets:

Sample pages from The Digital Adult Speech Therapy Workbook:

Complete Digital Adult Speech Therapy Workbook 9 PDF Packs image 0

Hundreds of worksheets, handouts, and therapist treatment guides

2) Repeat, repeat, repeat

  • Immediately after meeting a person, say their name twice
  • Repeat information back to the person who gave it to you. Then repeat it to yourself.

For example: “Do my exercises twice a day, do my exercises twice a day.”

  • Memorize lists by repeating them over and over
  • Remember reading material by summarizing what you read immediately after you read it.
  • Learn how to use a new piece of technology by repeating the same actions over and over again.

For example: Set up and delete a new alarm on your phone. Repeat the steps at least 3 times in a row.

3) Take Mental Pictures

  • To remember where you put an item, place the item where it belongs and then take note of what’s around it.

For example: “I placed the keys in the brown dish. The yellow flowers are to the right and the white wall is behind it.”

  • To remember written information, take note of where the information is located on the paper.

For example: “The paragraph I want to remember is on the bottom of the first page of the colorful brochure.”

  • To remember where you parked your car, take note of its location in relation to the store you’re visiting

For example: “My car is parked in the middle of the parking lot. The lane is lined up with the logo of the store.”

4) Use Associations

  • Remember someone’s name by connecting it to someone else with the same or similar name.
  • Memorize the purpose of your prescription medication by creating a simple or funny phrase.

For example: “AmLOdipine LOWers blood pressure”

Or, “SimvaSTATin helps with FAT‘n cholesterol”

Or, “HYDROchlorothiazide is my WATER pill”

5) Use Groups

  • Organize your grocery list by group or by their location in the store

For example, “I need 3 items from dairy, 2 from meat, and 5 from the canned food aisle.”

  • Memorize your entire list of medications by grouping them. Group by when you take them or what they’re used for.
  • Recall what you just read by stopping regularly and summarizing the information.

For more treatment ideas check out 21 Practical Cognitive Tasks.

Printable Worksheet: Memorize Lists

Here’s a sample activity and accompanying worksheet from The Digital Adult Speech Therapy Workbook.

You’re welcome to copy the worksheet, paste it into a blank word document, and print it out for your patients.

Your patient can create their own lists, or they can practice with the examples on the worksheet.

Activity Guidelines

  1. Write your list. Avoid adding extra information. A grocery list example: If you always buy whole wheat bread, then just write “bread.”

  2. Identify Groups. There should be at least 2 groups. Limit groups to 3-5 items each. There can be an “other” group for items that doen’t quote belong to any specific group.

  3. Sort the list into groups. You can do this by rewriting your list. Or highlight each item using a different color for each group (e.g. Dairy is yellow. Produce is green).

  4. Read the first group aloud. Repeat at least 3 times. Read from your list as needed.

  5. Repeat without reading. This time, don’t look at the list as you repeat the first group again.
    • If you remembered all the items, move on to the next group.
    • If you forgot one or more items, read your list aloud at least three times and try again.
    • If you’re still having trouble remembering the items, make the groups smaller.

  6. Continue memorizing the other groups. Continue reading aloud and repeating each group until you’ve memorized the entire list.

  7. Repeat the entire list aloud. Say your list aloud, group by group.
    • If you remembered all the items, then repeat the entire list aloud at least 3 times.
    • If you forgot one or more items, take a short break then read the list aloud before trying again.

From The Digital Adult Speech Therapy Workbook

More Resources

The Adult Speech Therapy Workbook
Available as a physical book on Amazon Prime

Memory Pack PDF Patient Handouts Worksheets Resources image 0

Memory Pack
Handouts, worksheets, & therapist treatment guides

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