Strategies for Memory Improvement in Older Adults

Jane S. Saczynski, University of Massachusetts Medical School
George W. Rebok, Johns Hopkins University


Memory impairment is of great concern to middle-aged and older adults as well as their families. Memory is related to the ability to successfully perform tasks of daily living and to live independently. Longitudinal studies report conversion rates from mild cognitive impairment to a diagnosis of dementia of approximately 10% per year. Memory interventions focusing on modeling and practicing strategies specific to memory tasks show that memory decline can be retarded or reversed. Although memory interventions are often implemented outside of medical office visits because of time constraints, an office visit is a natural venue for the intervention of memory-related problems raised during the course of the visit. This article outlines the procedure for an advanced practice nurse (APN) to implement a memory intervention within the context of a 3-session office visit. Prevalence rates and risk factors for memory impairment are presented, assessments described, and treatment options offered. Strategies common to all memory tasks, as well as those specific to certain types of memory (eg, memory for names, memory for lists) are described. Case vignettes describe various types of memory impairment. Clinical implications and the role of the APN are discussed.