Managing Executive Dysfunction with a Neurological Condition
The information contained here is not intended to replace medical advice, and if you feel like your difficulties are obstructing your rehabilitation or impacting upon your day-to-day life, you should speak to a medical professional.
Information on this topic
includes (usually automatic) abilities that, for example, allow us to:
- Make decisions
- Solve problems
- Plan/ organise
- Have motivation
- Start new tasks/switch tasks
These complex abilities are usually taken for granted, they are involved in everything we do often without us realising.
Executive function is controlled by the frontal lobes of the brain – damage to/dysfunction of the frontal lobes, or brain areas connected to these, can lead to impairment of these abilities – everyday life can then become increasingly difficult.
It can be hard to undertake roles, activities, interactions with others and attend work/education when we find some of the above abilities difficult.
If you find that you experience some of the following common executive function difficulties, our self-help top-tips and activity below may help you manage in day-to-day life.
Not being able to plan/order the steps for completing a task e.g. how to make a cup of tea or a meal
Unable to begin to start/ finish something without being prompted
Struggle to work out what to do when something does not go as expected
Unable to do more than one thing, or switch between tasks e.g. putting the washing out whilst keeping your eye on the food cooking
May be able to make a plan, but struggle to follow through with it e.g. get distracted by something else
Simple decisions such as what to wear become very difficult
Some people become impulsive, making decisions without thinking through the consequences
Finding it hard to initiate, participate in, or pay attention to conversations
Loss of ‘get up and go’
Prepare a weekly routine for tasks like shopping, washing and tidying the house. E.g. if Monday is shopping day it is easier to be motivated
- A daily routine can also be helpful e.g. what to do from getting up to leaving the house. Having this written down/ pictures can help.
- Discuss your plans with others – this will make you more likely to remember and the other person can remind you of things if necessary.
- Use checklists/ step-by step guides for what activities you need to do/ steps within an activity, and tick off each step when completed.
- Where possible, develop back up plans
instead of trying to problem-solve on the spot.
- Recognise when you are making a decision and tell yourself to ‘stop: think!’ give yourself time, you could also write down the pros/cons of each option.
Try not to make decisions when tired or emotional as this will be more difficult.
- Break larger decisions down into smaller, more manageable ones and tackle one at a time.
- Try to be patient with yourself. Allow yourself more time to get things done and don’t expect too much of yourself.
Self Help Activities
Step By Step Process Template
For tasks you are struggling to remember the steps for, especially those you do often, fill in this template outlining each step. You can then tick the boxes next to each step once you have done them each time.
Stop: think! Decision Making Card
Whenever you are making a decision, particularly important ones, ask yourself the questions on this card before you do so – you could print it out and keep it on you e.g. in your wallet/purse.