Saturday, February 13, 2021

Reminder workarounds

Most people, apparently, have trouble with their memories as they get older. Some joke about it (like calling it “C.R.S.: Can’t Remember Shit”). Under the best of circumstances it can be annoying, but it’s also frustrating, especially when it causes other problems. The solution, we’re told, is either resignation to the our new reality or finding ways around the problems. Seems to me the second option implies the first has also been adopted. I know that’s true for me, anyway.

I needed ways to try to work-around the “brain fog” I’ve complained about several times, most recently, this past Tuesday. I’ve also talked several times about trying to find ways to organise my life so I don’t have to remember things, and so, forgetting them won’t matter. This week I made some progress—I think.

I’ve always looked for technological solutions to my organising needs because I have some device or other near me all the time, and I check one or all of them every day—in some cases (phone, iPad), several times a day. All of which made some sort of App-based solution the best one for me (as did the fact I never remember to look at written lists…).

This got a bit of a hurry up because twice over the past couple weeks or so I forgot to take my daily pills. Both times I felt unwell by evening, and in both cases I didn’t realise I’d forgotten the pills until I went to take my evening pill. By then, the best option was to wait until morning to take them as normal (which made for a less-than-restful night’s sleep).

Forgetting to take my prescriptions is bad enough, doing so twice in a short period of time is worse, and, frankly, it worried me a lot. But the first order of business was to find a solution so I didn’t have to rely on my (clearly faulty) memory alone.

The first thing I did was to put my pill box on the kitchen bench where I could see it every time I went in the kitchen. Not a perfect solution: The untidiness annoys me, but seeing it there all the time would also probably mean I’d eventually not see it at all because of its familiarity.

Enter technology.

I remembered that when I forgot to take my pills at the old house (which really mostly meant being), Nigel suggested I get an App to remind me to take my pills. He often forgot to take his own medication, so he got and used an App (which kept sending daily reminders to his phone after he died, which was kind of unsettling, until I turned off the reminders).

I was about to check Nigel’s phone (which I still have, obviously) to find out what App he used, but I hesitated. I wasn’t comfortable sharing my prescriptions with an App and its servers, at least, not without researching the company providing the App. A better solution was an App that Apple puts on all its devices, one I laready had: Reminders (a screenshot of the Mac version is up top).

Apple is much stronger about preserving privacy than most companies are, often notoriously so. My Apple Watch records activity data and heart rate, the latter of which has been particularly useful. I back up the data manually, and if I don’t secure that backup with a password I create, I can’t transfer my health date to a new phone, something I found out about the hard way. Even though our data can never be totally secure everywhere, every time, I nevertheless feel comfortable trusting Apple. Mostly.

So, I set up two Reminders in the App, and set both to remind me every day. What I haven’t gotten right yet is making they alert me on my watch by “tapping” my wrist (useful) or by making a sound on my phone (possibly more useful). However, I check my phone a few times during the day, and always as I’m about to head to bed, so I’m nearly certain to see the Reminders, either as they pop up or soon afterward, and regardless of which device I’m using. So far, it’s worked well, even without taps on my wrist or sounds.

Until I did this, I didn’t know that it was possible to have a Reminder repeat daily (because I’d never used the App very much). An added benefit is that I now take my pills roughly 12 hours apart, as the doctors want, and not just when I remember. The main benefit is that, so far, I don’t have to rely on my memory to make sure I take my prescriptions. I still have my pill box out on the kitchen bench for now, though.

The thing that worries me is that I don’t know for sure how much of this “brain fog” is caused by the prescriptions I’m currently, and so, will at least theoretically improve when my medications are revised in the next few months. If it’s not that, there are other things that could be causing it, including my grief. I actually think it’s probably a cumulative thing. At least, I hope so.

Regardless of the cause(s) of this “brain fog”, and no matter how much it improves in the future, memory issue will continue. So far, this one solution seems to be helping. With luck I’ll find more, too.

This post has been updated. Follow the link to see the update.


Roger Owen Green said...

well, I actually use an old-fashioned reminder. It's called pen-and-paper. I have this need to know, all of the time, not just when I have something tomorrow, but the five days after that. I COULD put it on an electronic calendar, but I enjoy being untethered to machinery.
(My daughter couldn't text me today because I was neither near the phone or the computer. She had to CALL me, on the LANDLINE.)

Arthur Schenck said...

Many, many years ago (nearly 30…) I used a pen-and-paper system I made for myself, and it worked well for me at that time. But everything, including me, has moved on, my needs are different, and so is my attention span. In recent years I've repeatedly tried to use paper lists, but failed every time because I forget to look at the list. Not even electronic lists necessarily get around that problem, but for something like this—reminders to take medication—a tech solution is ideal. For me. Others may have different experiences.