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HIV minor cognitive/motor disorder can lead to missed appointments, breakdown in medication regimens, an overall disruption in self-care abilities, and reduced quality of life. Features include impaired attention and concentration, slowed information processing, compromised problem solving abilities, apathy and social withdrawal, and neuromotor dysfunction (Heaton et al., 1995; Lopez et el., 1998; McArthur, Sactor, & Selnes, 1999). Changes in cognition can be the result of reaction to or interaction of medications, delirium, depression, mental illness, anxiety, or substance use. Following is Table 1 describing common symptoms of cognitive impairment and interventions that you may find helpful.


Table 1: Cognition Change
Decreased concentrationLosing track of a conversationMaintain eye contact when talking to the person, frequently using his/her name in conversation. Provide information to individuals and their families about dementia. Teach client strategies on how to communicate with doctors/clinicians.
ForgetfulnessMisplacing familiar, commonly used objects. Forgets to take medication.Help the person to designate consistent spots for keys, wallet, purse. Develop a realistic and practical system for adherence by developing a buddy system - Have a friend call at the same time every day for medication reminders. Link medication with a meaningful activity - Take medication each day during favorite soap opera/TV show.
DisorientationForgetting the day of the week or time of day. Getting lost.Hang or place easily visible/accessible clocks/calendars. Keep a notebook of directions and "How-To" instructions in the kitchen, where safety issues are a concern.

Compensation for Memory Loss

There are some things that you can do as a caregiver to help alleviate the frustration felt by a person with HIV when s/he is having trouble remembering.

Help the person establish routines and stick to them. It will be easier for him/her to follow a schedule that is the same each day, rather than a schedule that is constantly changing.
Develop a list of important things to check before leaving the house.
Encourage the person to talk aloud to focus attention.
Help the person establish a telephone log to keep track of calls and important information. Obtain a caller ID box if possible for review of who called the client.
Encourage participation in activities that stimulate the mind.
Write simple "how to" instructions for household chores that require several steps.
Help the person maintain a daily log or planner. Some points to remember when making a planner for someone: make sure the print is easy to read; ask the person what s/he would like to have included in the planner; keep it simple; if it has too much information, the person might have trouble using it.

Compensation for Memory Loss