External Memory Compensation Tools

There are many reasons why your memory may not be as good as it used to be. Reasons range from age to injury. Diagnosing the cause or degree of memory problems is beyond the scope of this post. If your goal is to understand the origin or degree of injury, please consult a doctor, psychologist, psychiatrist, or therapist for proper testing and evaluation. The purpose of this post is to help people find the external compensation tools that reduce the impact of a memory problem.

External compensation tools are generally classified into one of the following five categories:

  1. Brain boosting food
  2. Medicine or herbal supplements
  3. Board, tile, or card games
  4. Puzzles
  5. Electronic games and tools

Brain Boosting Food

Brain Boosting FoodI have eaten many “brain boosting” foods. Although I did not notice any difference in attention, storage, processing, or recall, my conclusion is far from scientific. The amount I tried may have been too small. I may have eaten the food too infrequently. I may not have combined the food with the proper activating ingredients. Perhaps the super foods only improve the memories of other people or laboratory mice.

Medicine or Herbal Supplements

Many companies sell medicine or herbal pillssupplements that may, or may not, reduce memory loss without causing other problems. I am not a doctor, and I am not a huge fan of medicine or herbal supplements. My personal feeling, which may or may not be correct, is that the side effects of medicine and supplements tend to be worse than the symptoms they are designed to treat.

Board, tile, or Card Games

mahjongg-1Many of the games I used to enjoy playing as a child turn out to be great external memory compensation tools. Although I stopped playing the games for many years because I was so busy with school and work, I started playing them again a year or so after my brain surgery. Games such as Memory, Concentration, Mahjong, and Rummy Cube are fun to play, exercise the brain, and strengthen memory.


There are three types of puzzles that I still Sudoku 25x25use to sharpen my memory: Sudoku, Mind Benders, and Jigsaw Puzzles. You can make each puzzle as easy or as difficult as you want. When I first started working with the puzzles, I found the easiest levels of each puzzle to be very difficult. As my memory grew stronger, I found the basic puzzles to be too easy. Now I like the very difficult, challenging, and time-consuming puzzles found only on the internet. Some of the puzzles I enjoy solving are so difficult that I remember very little about the numbers, shapes, or words that would be helpful.

Electronic Games and Tools

For a reason I don’t understand, this category of external memory tools seems Memory Blockbe the most controversial and least understood. Games and tools are not bad simply because they are online. In some cases, the games and tools that help people could not exist anywhere other than online. A site that I recommend, for those who are interested in reading software reviews written by brain injury survivors, is ID 4 the web. There is no fee to comment about software you have used. However, registration is required and all comments are moderated to ensure the site remains free of spam and inappropriate comments.


Why do you believe you have a memory problem? What is the problem preventing you from doing? How would you know if your memory is getting better or worse? What is your plan for addressing your memory issues?

Thank you to Michelle Wild, Jan Heck, and the other contributors to ID 4 the Web.


    1. Nicole, I relied on word search puzzles for quite a while. When the word searches were too easy (and that was not for some time), I completed crossword puzzles and started playing Scrabble again. Scrabble offered the added benefit of combining memory, words, and limited resources (letters on tiles). I also liked the idea of a “cognitive therapy” that allowed me to spend time with family and friends. I also found a few Suduko letter puzzles and Mind Bender puzzles that I enjoyed a lot. Thank you for sharing your feedback. If there is anything I can do, please let me know.

  1. Brain tumour excised in 2009 left with seizures and cognitive problems.
    Short term memory and also visual memory impaired.
    Brain training games on I pad, did try jig saws but very difficult and frustrating, tired me out. Coping strategies , keeping diary on phone of forthcoming events with reminders and also writing notes to self & tick lists of to do list.

    1. Jeannete, Thank you for sharing your comment. I can definitely relate to your frustration and exhaustion. I tried several recovery strategies before I found some that worked for me. At one point I tried jigsaw puzzles, I had a lot of trouble at first because the puzzles were to big and the pieces were too small. I spent a lot of time looking for online puzzles (I do not have an iPad). I found a site that allowed me to control the picture, number of pieces, and shape of the pieces. I started with simple shapes and and approximately six pieces. As I was able to add more shapes and crazier pieces I did. I don’t recall the site name, but if you are interested I will find the site for you. I eventually stopped using the website because my eyes (not my brain) could no longer see the pieces. I then relied on Sudoku puzzles and Maj Jong to continue developing my cognitive skills. Please let me know if you have any questions.

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