Short Term Memory Loss

Understand the Various Causes

Short term memory loss can be extremely difficult for care givers.

Short term memory is memory we are currently, or actively, thinking about. It is also referred to as working memory, although the two types of memory are somewhat different.

This type of memory is often limited to around seven items and lasts about 20 - 30 seconds. A great example is when mom asks what day it is, you tell her Saturday. Less than a minute later, she asks you again what day it is. And a few minutes later --- she asks again.

This can cause frustration and anger with care givers and is difficult to deal with. There are some great management tips that we often used in our Dementia Unit that helped significantly in lowering frustrations of early dementia patients.

Causes of Short Term Memory Loss

Although most people automatically think of Alzheimer's, or other Dementias, when they think of this condition, there are actually several other causes that may be the root cause or may be aggravating the memory loss associated with the Dementias.

Some of the other causes are listed below, along with a few things you can do to help prevent or eliminate them. Always check with your doctor before you make changes in medications, diet and routines, as these changes can possibly affect your loved one's current treatment.

  • Infections: Any infection can cause problems with memory in the elderly, but the most likely infectious cause is a UTI Early detection and treatment is vital. The best way to prevent UTI's is to keep your loved one adequately hydrated.
  • Alcohol Abuse: More elderly than you would imagine have an alcohol dependency. Alcoholism can lead to memory issues. Monitor your loved one to determine if this may be a contributing factor.
  • Medication Reactions: Any time your loved one has a change in medications, either an addition of a new medication or stopping an existing one, and develops worsening memory issues, you should notify their doctor immediately.
  • Vitamin Deficiency: There are a few vitamin deficiencies that can lead to memory loss. Review the article of the best memory vitamins for more information on this potential cause.
  • Drug Abuse: Overtaking prescribed medications or the use of medications not prescribed can lead to this issue as well. It is especially important to be aware of all medications your loved one is taking.
  • Fatigue and Stress: Lack of sleep, combined with high stress levels, can lead to memory issues as well. The elderly do best with a set routine so if things all of a sudden change, like where they live or a change in daily routine, you can expect to see some memory issues for a short time. If they continue, it is best to look for other causes.

Try to understand that short term memory loss can be just as frustrating to the person suffering from it as it is on you. Try not to become angry or frustrated, because they will pick up on those feelings and the stress can lead to worsening symptoms.

Eliminate as many reversible causes as possible first. Then, when you know you have done everything you can, it is time to start learning some management techniques to help you all live with short term memory loss.

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