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memory loss

Short Term Memory Loss: Sign of Alzheimer’s or Dementia?

Short-term memory loss can be one of the earlier symptoms of dementia, which could be caused by Alzheimer’s disease or other underlying health concerns.

Your loved one enjoys sharing the story of her favorite family vacation from her childhood. She remembers every detail, from the specific sites to the conversations, and how they made her feel, even decades later.

Yet when you ask her what she did yesterday, she has difficulty recalling the specifics. You notice that more often, you need to help her find misplaced glasses, and sometimes you have to remind her of appointments she scheduled. As this becomes more common, you want to learn about how short term memory loss can affect her lifestyle.

At any age, we can forget the more mundane details of our day-to-day lives. As we continue to age, our short term memory naturally becomes slightly more unreliable. 

When caring for an aging loved one, it’s important to understand the difference between normal short term memory loss and more serious health concerns like Alzheimer’s, that might affect a person’s overall behavior and lifestyle.

What is Short Term Memory Loss?

Our brains use short-term memory to store small amounts of information that we just took in. Short-term memory loss means we might struggle to remember recent information, such as what we saw, heard, planned, or experienced in our present lives.

You might notice someone experience this when they ask for the same information repeatedly, misplace things, forget recent events, or forget something they learned recently.

Almost 40 percent of people over the age of 65 experience some form of memory loss. Normal age-associated memory impairment is possible without any serious health concerns or affects a person’s daily life.

Significant memory loss, however, should not be considered an inevitable result of aging, but instead could be a warning sign that treatment is needed.

Normal Aging vs Potential Health Issues

Memory issues should only become a concern when they begin to affect a person’s daily life.

Normal memory loss associated with aging involves the following types of more occasional memory loss behavior:

  • Not being able to remember the name of an acquaintance
  • Forgetting things and events sometimes
  • Occasionally having difficulty finding the right words

Whereas memory loss behaviors that could indicate a health concern involve forgetting more crucial information:

  • Not recognizing or knowing the names of family members
  • Forgetting things or events more frequently
  • Forgetting directions to commonly traveled places

Medical Causes

Memory loss can be caused by the following, among other illnesses and diseases:

  • Dementia
  • Heart problems
  • Issues with medications
  • Head injuries
  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
  • Mental health issues
  • Grief, stress, or fatigue
  • Substance abuse

Some of these can be treated or reversed, which can help a loved one return to their normal self, while some will require ongoing care and management. Either way, it’s important to see a doctor to determine the root of the memory impairment and the proper course of action to keep a loved one healthy and independent for as long as possible.

The Early Stages of Alzheimer’s or Dementia

Dementia is usually caused by degeneration in the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain responsible for thoughts, memories, actions, and personality. Death of brain cells in this region leads to the cognitive impairments that characterise dementia.

Dementia is an overall term used to describe an individual’s decline in memory or his or her ability to think, which affects their ability to adequately perform everyday activities. It accompanies certain diseases and conditions, such as Alzheimer’s, which is the most common cause of dementia and accounts for approximately 60 to 80 percent of all cases.

Memory loss becomes a warning sign for more serious health concerns, such as Alzheimer’s, when you notice changes in a loved one on the following two levels:

They Struggle With Daily Tasks

  • Misplacing things by putting them in unusual places
  • Confusion about time or place, such as forgetting where they are or how they got there and losing track of the passage of time
  • Forgetting how to do routine activities, such as personal hygiene habits, grocery shopping, or playing a favorite game
  • Issues with problem-solving and planning, including difficulty with work involving numbers, paying bills, or cooking
  • Difficulty doing tasks involving spatial reasoning, as they might experience vision problems, difficulty with balance, or trouble judging distance.
  • Struggles with vocabulary and keeping up with a conversation, which could include repeating themselves, freezing in the middle of a conversation, or calling familiar objects by strange names. 

Their Overall Behavior Has Shifted

  • They show signs of decreased judgment and difficulty in decision-making, which could lead to impulsive or irresponsible choices.
  • They withdraw socially, which could involve difficulty with conversation and forgetfulness. This might cause a person to feel overwhelmed by hobbies, work, or social activities they once enjoyed.
  • They show changes in mood or personality, suddenly feeling confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful, or anxious, becoming easily upset, and possibly leading to personality changes that are out of character.

Since dementia is progressive, its symptoms worsen over time. In its early stages, Alzheimer’s disease typically affects short-term memory. However, as the disease progresses, people gradually experience more long-term memory loss, or amnesia.

If Your Loved One Needs Care

Although there is currently no cure, at The Kensington Redondo Beach we are able to improve the quality of life for those with dementia and their loved ones. We love and care for your family as we do our own.

We customize care to emphasize self-sufficiency as much as possible, striving to ensure that each resident has the ability to live as independently as their circumstances allow.

Please contact us soon for more information and resources about memory loss related issues and care. We are here to help as you decide what the right next steps are in the care of your loved one.

Further Reading:

Memory loss is life changing for all involved. At The Kensington, we provide a state-of-the-art memory care program, a higher staff-to-resident ratio than industry standards, and more advanced care services. Our promise is to love and care for your family as we do our own.

For additional resources regarding your loved one’s condition, please read on about our Memory Care, Alzheimer’s Care and Dementia Care.

Additional Recommended Reading:

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