Mom's Sudden Memory Loss

by Carol
(Milwaukee, Wisconsin)

Mom's memory diminished very quickly. In a matter of 3 months, she has lost short term memory ability.

memory problems story
Now when I visit and spend a morning with her, she has no recollection of the visit by that afternoon. When I talk with her over the phone, she seems to realize her problem but tries to cover it up.

I would like to know some ways to help her.

She was an avid reader all her adult life and worked crossword puzzles and suduko to "keep her mind sharp", she often said. There is no history of dementia.

She doesn't want to journal. We play Gin and Scribbage and she does pretty well with those.

This site is helpful (and fun) for me. It's my hope that I can get pointers on how to help her.

Doug's Reply. Carol, has your mom been to see a doctor about this yet?

Fast-declining memory ability could indicate a serious condition. Normal memory loss due to aging is usually a slower process. Forgetting recent experiences like your morning visits, and more frequent occurrences of memory lapses, may indicate something more.

There are dozens of possible causes of memory loss. Some can be reversed or managed. But in most cases the earlier the person gets professional medical treatment the better the outcome.

As just one example, consider Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH). This condition mimics Alzheimer's dementia
but is often curable. NPH is caused by fluid build-up in the brain that's hard to detect unless the doctor is looking for it.

With NPH, the problem if left untreated may become so severe the person is unable to hold a conversation, and they might be confined to a wheelchair. They have problems with balance, memory, and urination.

My point is, you mom might (or might not) have something going on that is treatable. The rapid decline may be a red flag. But you won't know if this is serious or normal until she's evaluated by a physician.

Besides a physical exam, medical history, and other tests the doctor might recommend neuropsychological testing. This could include a written test to determine her cognitive strengths and weaknesses. For example, you said your mom can play card games (a strength), yet can't always remember that you stopped by for a visit (a weakness).

Rapid memory loss needs to be taken very seriously. As reported by the American Medical Association, it could indicate the possibility of a future stroke. As the National Institutes of Health has reported, it could mean possible dementia.

The first step is to have her visit a qualified physician to have it checked out.

Best regards,
This is information only. It is not medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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Jul 05, 2019
Mom's recent memory loss
by: Jamie

My Mom is 95 years old and lives in her own apartment in a senior residence. She is in quite good shape and participates in a drama class that meets once a week. She memorized all her lines for a play they will be performing in 10 days. I saw her perform it three weeks ago and she was excellent.

Today Mom said she completely forgot all her lines. It started about two weeks ago.

Mom reads the NY Times, watches the news and discusses politics and policies.

I was wondering if any one can add some input.

Jun 24, 2015
Short Term Memory Problems
by: Silver Wanderer

I too have short term memory problems but without the deterioration. The advice given seems excellent. I don't know what medical facilities are available to you but my experience of using the UK National Health Service means that you must be really pushy. Professionals seem to become interested when the sufferer is in a really bad way.

Don't be put off by the first official/medico who vaguely defers action 'until she is unable to perform her usual activities' i.e., she is stuck indoors and vegetating. Talk to anybody and everybody.

The other aspect of this is how to help her cope with daily life. I have used many tricks and gadgets to help me. e.g., Notices on the wall of the kitchen, bedroom and living room. A calendar of appointments for next few weeks on the wall. A notice on the frig door showing reminder for each day of this week. A notice next to my bed so that the first thing I see is the day of the week. Forgetting it is very embarrassing.

Of course it is possible that you did not notice the deterioration and your mother was embarrassed to admit it. I sometimes pretend I really wanted to go into a particular room and would not admit it was the wrong door I walked through.

Nowadays I often forget name of someone whose face I recognize. I will start a collection of photos of faces, add their names and stick them on the wall where I will see them frequently.

As a non-medical person I think memory is like a block of wood, tap a nail in once and it could shake loose. Keep tapping and it will stay in much longer. I find once it has moved from short term to long term it only needs refreshing every so often.

My problem is when my wife moves things around because I keep going to where it was last week.

Please remember this could upset your mother.

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