“You should remember. I told you this an hour ago!” “You should remember. We’ve been talking about this for the past week!” When a family member or friend speaks in this manner to a brain injury survivor, it is often a sign of annoyance. They are expressing frustration at the survivor forgetting what was told him or her. However, the word “should” implies a value judgement. The survivor “should” remember and if not, he or she failed at something that “should” have been done.
Before family or friends attempt to discuss what a survivor “should” do, the first question that needs to be addressed is whether or not the survivor CAN remember the information in question. If due to deficits left in the wake of a brain injury survivors are simply not able to remember information, it is unfair to say that they “should” remember. As an analogy, we would not say to a young child that he or she “should” be able to complete a calculus problem the child has worked on for a week. We can all recognize that calculus is simply beyond a young child’s skill level. A “should” statement does not make sense in this situation. Similarly, we need to ask whether completing a given memory task falls within the brain injured survivor’s skill level. If the memory task is beyond the survivor’s abilities, clearly the survivor will not remember the information. In this case, stating that the survivor “should” remember is unfair.
The next logical question is whether anything could be done to further facilitate the survivor’s efforts to improve his or her memory. Perhaps information needs to be written down on a note so the survivor can check the note later for the information. Some patients benefit from constant repetition or association techniques to help bolster the memory. There are many different methods to help memory. In some cases though, a family member or loved one will just need to remember important information for the survivor if doing so proves truly outside of the range of the survivor’s abilities.
Learn about brain injury treatment services at the Transitional Learning Center: tlcrehab.org