• Alzheimer’s & dementia
  • Health & Wellness

What Is the Cause of Short-Term Memory Loss in Seniors?

Memory loss in your loved one can be concerning. Learn the causes of short-term memory loss in seniors and how you can help them navigate the changes.

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Understanding the Causes of Short-Term Memory Loss in Seniors & Ways to Help

Does your memory seem a little hazy these days? Are you concerned about a loved one’s forgetfulness? 

You are not alone — memory loss is one of the most common concerns associated with aging. 

Although memory problems and a modest decline in thinking skills are relatively common as we age, there is a difference between regular changes in memory and memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders. 

In this article, you will learn: 

  • Common causes of short-term memory loss in seniors

  • Warning signs of short-term memory loss in seniors

  • Ways to build a healthy memory

  • And much more

5 Common Causes of Short-Term Memory Loss in Seniors

#1: Aging

Normal age-related memory loss typically does not cause significant disruptions in your daily life. Generally, changes in memory are manageable and do not affect your ability to:

  • Work

  • Live independently; or

  • Maintain social relationships

For example: 

Maybe you occasionally forget someone’s name but recall it later on. Maybe you sometimes misplace your glasses. Maybe you need to make lists often to keep track of appointments and tasks. 

Similar to muscle strength, you either use your memory or you lose it. 

Your …

  • Lifestyle

  • Habits; and 

  • Daily activities

… have a significant impact on your brain’s health. 

To prevent memory loss due to aging, you must protect your gray matter and cognitive skills.

#2: Disease

If you are experiencing memory loss so severe that it interferes with your … 

  • Work

  • Hobbies

  • Social life; and

  • Family relationships

… you may have Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia.

The brain cells of people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia become progressively damaged and are unable to communicate with each other. Because of the damage, there is an irreversible loss of memory and thinking ability.

#3: Mild Cognitive Impairment

Mild cognitive impairment does not happen simply due to aging and its symptoms are not as severe as Alzheimer’s or dementia. Instead, mild cognitive impairment may slightly affect your:

  • Memory

  • Language

  • Thinking; and

  • Judgment calls

But how do you know when your symptoms are age-related or are signs of mild cognitive impairment? It’s not so straightforward.

Those who suffer from memory loss related to aging may find it difficult to remember people’s names they don’t see very often. However, forgetting names of close friends and family might be a sign of mild cognitive impairment. 

Those who suffer from mild cognitive impairment will likely notice a decline in their memory or mental functioning. Unlike people with dementia, those suffering from mild cognitive impairment can still function independently.

The development of Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia is common among people with mild cognitive impairment, but it’s not inevitable. Some people with mild cognitive impairment plateau at a relatively mild stage of decline, while others return to normal.

#4: Dementia and Alzheimer’s

Memory loss is common among people with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia

Dementia is caused by damage to the brain, which can affect the areas involved in creating and retrieving memories.

People with dementia will likely:

  • Experience memory problems that become more persistent and affect their daily lives; or

  • Have difficulty coping with those around them

#5: Other Reversible and Non-Reversible Causes

Memory loss does not necessarily indicate dementia. 

Cognitive difficulties could happen for a variety of reasons:

  • Depression

  • Vitamin B12 deficiency

  • Thyroid problems

  • Alcohol abuse

  • Dehydration

  • Side effects of medication

  • Lack of social engagement

  • Smoking

  • Sleep deprivation

  • Poor diet; or

  • Lack of exercise 

If you’re experiencing memory loss, visit your doctor for a potential diagnosis.

Senior Services of America’s Memory Care Communities Provide Nurturing Environments for Seniors Dealing With Memory Loss

At Seniors Services of America, we understand that family members of loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementias face some of the most challenging times of their lives. Our memory care neighborhoods and purpose-built communities provide skilled and compassionate care to seniors with many types of memory impairments.

Our innovative program creates individualized care and service plans for our residents with Alzheimer’s and other related dementias. Plans are based on their level of need, which we understand may change over time. 

Our memory care program is managed by trained and certified nurses and our trained team members are available to provide comfort and security 24/7 in a safe, familiar, and stimulating environment. 

To learn more about our memory care program, or other programs we offer at Senior Services of America, find your nearest community today.

What Are the Warning Signs of Short-Term Memory Loss in Seniors?

In short-term memory, your brain stores small amounts of information it has just absorbed. 

People who suffer from short-term memory loss forget things they recently: 

  • Heard

  • Saw; or

  • Did 

Seniors who are experiencing memory loss might present with any of the following warning signs. They:

  • Repeatedly ask the same questions

  • Speak as if they are in another time

  • Have expired milk or groceries 

  • Are not eating

  • Are unable to follow directions

  • Get lost in familiar places

  • Become confused about people, place, and time

  • Don’t take care of themselves

When Should You See a Doctor?

If you are concerned about your or a loved one’s memory, consult your doctor immediately. It is possible to diagnose memory impairment and measure its severity with tests.

During the appointment, the doctor will ask many questions. Having someone along to answer questions based on observations is helpful. 

The following questions might be asked:

  • Can you tell me when you started having memory problems?

  • Do you take any medications, including prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, or dietary supplements?

  • Is there a new drug you have begun taking recently?

  • Do you find it challenging to complete specific tasks?

  • How have you dealt with memory problems?

  • Is alcohol a part of your daily routine?

  • Have you recently been in an accident, fallen, or injured your head?

  • Were you sick recently?

  • Do you feel sad, depressed, or anxious?

  • Have you recently experienced a significant loss, a major change, or a stressful event?

Your doctor will also conduct question-and-answer tests to test your memory and other thinking skills.

Blood tests, brain imaging scans, and other tests may be ordered to identify dementia-like symptoms and reversible causes of memory loss in seniors. 

Why Is It Important to Get a Diagnosis?

Diagnoses are essential, even when they’re difficult to hear. To receive the appropriate treatment, it is crucial to identify a cause for memory loss.

With an early diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s, or a related memory disorder, you can reap the many benefits, like:

  • Managing symptoms by beginning treatment

  • Taking the time to educate yourself and your loved ones about your disease

  • Deciding how future care will be provided

  • Identifying the options for in-home care or care facilities

  • Resolving legal or financial issues

Your doctor can suggest community resources and organizations to help you cope with memory loss and other dementia symptoms.

The team members at Senior Services of America communities understand how difficult it can be to care for loved ones with memory loss and other dementias. That’s why our memory care neighborhoods and purpose-built communities offer experienced and compassionate care.

To learn more, find your nearest community today.

Is There Treatment Available for Short-Term Memory Loss in Seniors?

Although there is no cure for memory loss, some medications and treatments are available to help slow the process and ease symptoms. Depending on the underlying cause, short-term memory loss can be treated with:

  • Radiation, chemotherapy, or surgery to treat brain tumors

  • Medications to treat blood clots or, in some cases, surgery to treat bleeding in the brain

  • Head injury rehabilitation using cognitive therapy

  • Mental health therapy or medication

  • Changing medications

  • Nutritional supplements

  • Support for substance abuse disorders in the form of rehab or other services

It’s important to note that some people are tempted by untried or unproven “cures” that claim to make the brain sharper or prevent dementia. 

Please be cautious when buying …

  • Pills

  • Supplements

  • Brain training computer games; or

  • Other products

… that claim to improve memory or prevent brain disorders as they might be unsafe and interfere with other medical treatments.

No drug or treatment is available to prevent Alzheimer’s or related dementias. However, several prescription drugs are known to treat the symptoms of early and mid-stage Alzheimer’s safely.

Ways to Help Maintain Healthy Memory in Seniors

Practices that are helpful to a healthy aging process and physical vitality are also beneficial for a healthy memory. 

By taking some of the following actions early to prevent cognitive decline, you’ll likely improve many other areas of your life. You might:

  • Stay or become more social

  • Quit smoking

  • Manage stress better

  • Get enough sleep

  • Eat healthily; or

  • Exercise regularly

 Activities to Help Seniors Exercise Their Brains

For better health, you know you should exercise your body, but you should also exercise your brain

Activities that involve the five senses stimulate the brain more and are more likely to be remembered because memory is stronger when you engage more senses.

Some exercises that help to engage the brain include: 

  1. Math problems — The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex  is stimulated by memory-based math problems. 

  2. Cooking or baking — All five senses are involved, making it a great brain exercise for seniors.

  3. Group board games — Social and cognitive interaction can be stimulated by playing group games.

  4. Using the non-dominant hand — For example, hair and teeth can be brushed with it. It can even be used to control your computer mouse. You challenge your brain to make new connections when you ask your opposite hand to do something it hasn’t done in decades.

  5. Knitting and crochet — There is a mathematical and spatial challenge involved, as well as the use of several senses. 

Senior Services of America Offers Senior Living Communities for Independent Living, Assisted Living, and Memory Care

Senior Services of America manages and operates senior housing communities across the Pacific Northwest. In addition to memory care facilities, our communities include: 

  • Independent living

  • Assisted living; and

  • Respite care facilities

We provide comprehensive health and wellness programs and support each resident’s independence and dignity. We pride ourselves on ensuring our residents receive a high level of care and service.

Would you like to learn more? Find your nearest community today.