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What Causes Short Term Memory Loss?

Short-term memory loss can be caused in a variety of ways. Some medications, like antidepressants, antihistamines, and anti-anxiety medications, muscle relaxants, tranquilizers, sleeping pills, and pain medications taken after surgery, could be contributing risk factors to memory loss. Memory loss can also be caused by alcohol, tobacco, using drugs, or smoking. Sleep deprivation, depression, stress, and nutritional deficiency can also cause memory loss to a degree, as a result of your brain not being able to function as well and your mental health will suffer. A head injury or stroke can also risk memory loss and impair cognitive functioning.  Anything that impacts your overall health and well-being can have an effect on your memory.

A prevalent theme among those with progressive or long-term memory loss is that they have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia is the overall umbrella term for a decline in thinking skills, language, problem-solving, and memory that lessen a person’s ability to function while completing day to day tasks. Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disorder that destroys memory and thinking skills and even the ability to fulfill simple tasks.

What Are The Stages Of Memory Loss?

Memory loss can be a terrifying thing, especially when you are not sure if what you or your loved one is experiencing is typical age-related memory loss and forgetfulness that happens with age or if it is the onset of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Knowing how to recognize the early signs of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease can help you see the warning signs and go see a doctor soon enough to start getting the help and care that you or your loved one needs. 

The majority of people will experience memory loss to some degree during their life, due to not being healthy, or the normal aging process and it simply being age-related memory loss. Some typical signs of short-term memory loss in older adults could include:

  • Not able to remember specific small details of past events, but they can remember enough of the general details to tell about the past event
  • Have trouble finding the right words at times for simple things, like “brush” or “fork,” but remembering the words later
  • Forgetfulness regarding the day of the week, or where they were going, or what they went into the kitchen for, but typically remembering it later
  • Misplace their keys or wallet at times
  • Feel sad or moody or irritable at times, but able to bounce back
  • Avoid work or social obligations, but not showing a decline in interpersonal skills or communication

When the decline of memory loss begins to be more drastic, and you or your loved one starts to show signs of declining and lessening in their ability to perform day to day tasks, then you want to be sure to see a medical professional, to see if dementia or Alzheimer’s is beginning, or if it is is just a result of age. The progression of Alzheimer’s used to be referred to as “early, mid-stage, or late-stage Alzheimer’s.” Recently, though, the Functional Stage Assessment, or FAST scale, was developed by Dr. Barry Reisberg, who divided the stages of Alzheimer’s into seven separate, detailed stages.

Stage 1: Normal Adult:

In the first stage, there is no visible memory impairment beyond the typical decline that comes with age. Clinical tests show no measurable deficit.

Stage 2: Normal Older Adult

A person who is in stage two is usually self-aware that there is a change or impairment in their brain that is occurring, as they start to experience a mild cognitive decline. It may not be obvious yet to a health care professional, family, or friends, but the person who is experiencing the changes may start to worry they are becoming more and more forgetful and experience confusion memory loss as they lose commonly used objects, like their wallet or keys more often, or keep forgetting people’s names.

Stage 3: Early Alzheimer’s Disease

The individual starts to experience more and more memory loss as they have difficulty concentrating on certain tasks or may have a hard time following a conversation as their mind begins to wander, and cognitive function begins to decline. They may also have a hard time remembering or retaining information that they just heard or read. Mental lapses, like forgetting common words or names or things, become more frequent. Some level of confusion is typical during this stage. Dementia-like symptoms may become more apparent and noticeable as Alzheimer’s disease progresses, and as the individual declines from stage three to stage four.

Stage 4: Mild Alzheimer’s Disease

This stage is when the memory loss and dementia of the individual become more and more apparent to their family and friends and doctors. Symptoms may include the loved one in question, forgetting people they just barely met. They may lose sudden interest in social or work situations and show a decreased ability to perform common tasks, like making dinner, or paying the bills. They may also become uncharacteristically disorganized. 

Stage 5: Moderate Alzheimer’s Disease

During stage five, the affected individual can no longer function on their own, and dementia and memory loss is beginning to set in heavily. They typically still remember their name as well as the names of their children and spouse, but they may not be able to remember their home address or phone number. Memory loss and dementia signs and symptoms increase, and your loved one often is confused about the time, place, date, day of the week, or even the season. Their level of alertness and awareness of their circumstances decreases, and they become unable to make proper choices, like wearing seasonally appropriate clothing or remembering to close doors. They may also start to forget personal history, like where they went to school or met their spouse. In addition, they typically begin to withdraw from social or challenging situations, so they can feel more comfortable. 

Stage 6: Moderately Severe Alzheimer’s Disease

At this point, the person affected with dementia and memory loss will begin to show considerable gaps in their memory and significant cognitive impairment. The individual’s personality may begin to drastically change as well, as they show more frequent symptoms of depression or anger. A person in this stage of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease may start to be unable to recognize familiar people, even their spouse or children. They may also require help with daily activities, like eating, grooming, and toileting. Incontinence is also common. The affected person may also start to wander and become lost more often, as well as experience hallucinations, and interact with people or things that are not really there. They may also exhibit delusional and/or paranoid behavior as their brain’s grasp of reality continues to slip.

Stage 7: Severe Alzheimer’s Disease

In this final stage of Alzheimer’s disease, most individual’s cognitive brains will have declined so much that they will have lost the ability to communicate verbally. A person experiencing such a severe level of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease will also lose their basic physical abilities, including sitting, walking, talking, and even swallowing. They have trouble sleeping, which increases disorientation, fatigue, and confusion.

If you suspect that you or your loved one are somewhere in the various stages of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, it is crucial that you go see a doctor right away. At the very least, they will be able to run tests and rule out if you are experiencing a degree of dementia, or if it is just typical memory loss due to aging. If you are indeed experiencing dementia or the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, the doctor will be able to explore different treatment options and help you get the help you or your loved one needs.