Six Ways to Help Your ADHD Loved One's Forgetfulness
Tuesday, February 16 2010 Douglas Cootey
Have a loved one with ADHD? Are they driving you as mad as a Johnny Depp character? Are you not only at your wit's end, but into the dim area beyond? Here are six simple things you can try to help your ADHD challenged dearheart fight forgetfulness without taking your sanity over the brink.
- Get their eye contact - Start off by gently pulling their attention away from whatever is occupying it. If you don't get eye contact, you'll be talking to their autopilot. You can count on your errand never being accomplished. Although tempting, don't scold. Don't threaten. Don't employ guilt. Just matter-of-factly and concisely tell them what you need. Have them repeat it back to you. As simple as this step sounds, if done incorrectly it can be demeaning or trigger insecurities so both parties need to be on their best behavior.
- Explain things visually or aurally - Find out how your loved one processes information. Maybe telling them a long list of errands doesn't work for them. It doesn't for me. I need to see time tables, events, etc. all written out visually. That's how I process information, or it's in one ear and out the other. In contrast, those who process things aurally and orally won't necessarily remember if you just write them a note. Talk with them and have them talk back with you to cement the instructions in their mind.
- ToDo lists - Once you have relayed the tasks visually or aurally, write them down in a clear list for easy reference, reminding, and checking off.
- Set alarms - Alarms with messages that pop up on computers and phones are wonderful reminders. Noise, light, and motion set the ADHD brain in motion and break it out of it's reverie. At the very least, an old fashioned egg timer with a note attached to it can work in a pinch.
- Incentives - Sometimes I'm so out of it my wife may threaten to remove something like my keyboard, mouse, or even laptop if I don't follow through on what I promised. She never threatens to take away my iPhone, however, since she knows it is my brain. In fact, I call it iBrain. Sad and tragic, but I'm mindless without it. If threatening punishment sounds too harsh, promises of rewards can be great motivators as well. For example, my wife will purchase licorice caramels and dangle them in front of me like the chewy, black li'l carrots that they are.
- Follow-up - Use phone calls, gentle vocal reminders, text messages, sticky notes, etc. Don't get caught up thinking you shouldn't have to. Their forgetfulness isn't a personal slight against you. When following up, try not to nag or pester because the ADHD person will simply tune you out. However, timely reminders are often well appreciated. The fine balance between nagging and gently reminding is one you'll need to work out with them. Each person is different. You'll need to experiment, giving the ADHD person opportunity to provide feedback.
Systems take time and effort to establish, but they are an important key to managing ADHD absentmindedness. Ironically, family and friends can have a hard time implementing these systems because they find them counterintuitive, or they feel that the ADHD-minded person should just grow up. Not very helpful. In these cases, the greatest enemy to these systems is not the ADHD person, but the friends and family who feel they shouldn't have to use them.
Obviously your mileage may vary, so don't be afraid to experiment and talk things over with your loved one. Finding a system that works for you, however, is worth the effort and will ultimately lead to fewer headaches and arguments all around.