A failing prospective memory - not remembering to take an action one had planned - can be an early sign of Alzheimer's disease.
Acting out or recreating the action you would like to remember before you execute it can keep you from forgetting things like taking medication, or leaving the stove on, scientists suggest.
A failing prospective memory - not remembering to take an action one had planned - can be an early sign of Alzheimer's disease, according to University of Chichester in the UK.
New therapeutic methods are being used to utilise levels of prospective memory as a means to accurately diagnose diseases of cognitive impairment.
Such methods can be effective non-invasive alternatives to traditional clinical methods such as the extraction of cerebral spinal fluid.
For a study published in the journal Neuropsychology, researchers studied prospective memory performance of 96 participants including patients with mild cognitive impairment aged 64 to 87 years, healthy older adults aged 62 to 84 years and younger adults aged 18 to 22 years.
The study looked at prospective memory performance before the introduction of an enhancement technique and compared it with performance after the enhancement technique.
The technique used was encoded enactment, where subjects were encouraged to act through the activity they must remember to do.
All age groups reported improvement in prospective memory, but it was particularly marked in those older subjects with mild cognitive impairment, that is, potentially in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.
The study suggests that encouraging people in this category to adopt enactment as a means to enhance prospective memory could result in them leading independent, autonomous lives for longer
"The next time you would like to remember to pick up a pint of milk from the store on your way home, do not wait until you have got home to realise you have forgotten to do it," said Antonina Pereira, who led the study.
"Instead, recreate the action you would like to remember, pretending that you are actually doing it, in as much vivid detail as possible," Pereira said.
"This might feel awkward to begin with, but it has been identified as an optimal technique to enhance prospective memory. It can have very long lasting effects and work even for people with cognitive impairment. Acting is the key," she said.
"Enactment techniques offer the potential for a cost-effective and widely applicable method that can support independent living. This contributes to an individual's health, well-being and social relationships while reducing the burden of care," she added.