Obsidian, Stroke, and Dementia

Dear Knowledge Management forum:

I need help. I’ve a seventy-five year old friend recovering from a stroke, and the onset of dementia. I want to use Obsidian to help in his recovery. This is an extreme use case, because my friend is a natural Luddite, with a disinterest in computers. I might need specific help with css or whatever later, but here I’m concerned with more meta issues.

What I think I’d like to do is use an Apple Watch, a big(?) iPhone, and an Apple TV with a big display. I’d set up “random” prompts each day, some for photos with the phone, some for voice notes with Watch or iPhone. Every day (week, month), he’ll review them with a trained friend (usually me), and add another layer of notes onto the day notes. Hopefully, he’ll start to use the system to take notes and snaps without prompts; voice seems most direct for that. As time goes on, things can be automated, or, better, learned.

So the idea is to use call and response to lay a base for a second brain, as a self made documentary of his life, essentially, currently and in reminiscence, with built in spaced repetition, building atomic habits. We are also doing a video documentary of his store and home, as a memory palace.

I can’t think of anything that comes close to Obsidian for these purposes. The display flexibility is stunning. I can have one menu for review screen and TV screen. TV access is voice command. Review screen needs day/date/clock display, day note, anything he finds helpful. And a memory game he likes, like Mah Jongg. Simple templates are easy, and I’ll have to start training with Watch and iPhone first, anyway. So I don’t need a polished system to start with—Apple supplies one that Obsidian really shines on. I can automate logs, actions, and repetitions as seems best. Maybe later he’ll be interested in ANKI cards.

Help questions: Are there resources I should look at in or outside the PKM arena? Are there other approaches to memory enhancement or memory support that might help? Any neuropsychology findings appropriate? Any related projects? Any metrics to suggest? Any other suggestions? Anything else I should have asked?


Robert Anderson, RA99


Dear Robert, I am sorry that your friend has dementia.

I am no expert on the topic, but as far as memory techniques go, but I think that besides Anki (which does something analogous to showing random prompts, but the timing is dictated by the forgetting curve), Method Of Loci is a technique I’d recommend. The idea is to associate what you want to remember to visualizations, usually places you’re very familiar with like your home. Your friend may find this exercise fun and interesting, as it involves both visualization and imagination.

Hope that helps!

I just want to say that I find the idea amazing! I was wishful-thinking something like that for a loved one, and I’m very happy that someone is interested to go in the same direction. I will try to come up with ideas and suggestions regularly, as far as I can. I would title the thread Obsidian and dementia, since a stroke is not the only way one can get dementia, but this is just a finesse.

Thanks. Good idea. We’ll try to work out doing a video of his shop and home that he can annotate (spaced reps as well as method loci). Sort of an autodocumentary. We can get significant musicians for the soundtrack…

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Sounds like you have a good tool set and a plan to start. Success will be engaging him with the content in the questions or prompts. Make notes of early responses, note favorable word & phrase choices, and tailor to his interest. Best wishes and do keep us informed, kudos on your effort. Cheers!

Just as an additional note, music has been found to act as a stimulus for memory recovery/acquisition. And because I know that you can embed audio files into Anki and Obsidian, it may be of benefit to supplement prompt memorization.

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Strokes may or may not be associated with dementia, but can have similar effects, so for inclusiveness sake…

Have you considered a daily or less frequent (but regular) visit to do brain games? Just because dementia isn’t something we understand, doesn’t mean our piecemeal efforts can’t help. A regular visit, with a fun regular metric in the battle against dementia, can’t hurt.

That’s sort of how I see starting, anyway, drawing the battle lines. Dementia doesn’t necessitate our submission, or turning the other cheek. But my friend needs to agree, to be willing to do battle on his own. If it’s only playing a fun brain game everyday at first.

Kindness eases most things, in any case. All my best.

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Thanks–great subject, great overview. And the idea of using music for prompts is also great and easily implemented with custom ringtones. (I also like the use of spaced repetition in the course of doing something else.)

What a fantastic application of Obsidian! I realize the this is making things more complicated for your friend, but there are two plugins that come to mind that might enrich the experience:

Another idea is to use this together, either in person or remotely, sharing your screen.

Please keep us updated!

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