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Many people experience memory problems after a stroke. In particular, people who have had a stroke in the right hemisphere of their brain commonly have problems paying attention. Stroke survivors can experience the following types of memory loss:

  • Verbal: memory of names, stories and information having to do with language
  • Visual: memory of shapes, faces, routes and things seen
  • Informational: memory of information and skills or trouble learning new things
  • Vascular dementia: A greater, more general decline in thinking ability

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Symptoms of memory loss after a stroke may include:

  • Confusion
  • Problems with short-term memory
  • Wandering
  • Getting lost in familiar places
  • Difficulty following instructions
  • Trouble making monetary transactions

Memory problems can be subtle and their cause difficult to diagnose. Symptoms of memory loss are very similar to symptoms of vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss may exist together with one of these conditions.

Memory loss may be a direct result of stroke, but can also be caused or worsened by:

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Neuropsychological rehabilitation, cognitive rehabilitation and cognitive training are techniques designed to improve thinking and brain activities affected by strokes. They can help a stroke survivor improve alertness and attention and adapt to his or her loss of memory function, but there is no scientific proof that such therapy can improve a stroke survivor’s ability to carry out daily tasks.

Most treatment for memory loss after a stroke is actually treatment to prevent further strokes.

Stroke prevention includes:        

Many stroke survivors who experience memory loss take no specific medication for their memory loss. But others may benefit from medications for related problems, such as anxiety, depression or sleeping problems.

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Memory can improve over time, either spontaneously or through rehabilitation, but symptoms can last for years.

Help a stroke survivor with daily activities with the following tips:

  • Have a place for everything. Hang keys on a hook by the door and keep other items in specific, designated places.
  • Have a routine. Set daily routines, such as bedtime tasks, in the same specific sequence every day. Post both daily activities and special events on a large calendar.
  • Keep notes. Keep a notebook of important information handy for the survivor. Organize it into sections, such as appointments, phone numbers and medications. Also, hang notes in prominent places and leave written directions on how to use common household items, such as phones, next to those items.
  • Use tricks. Mnemonic devices can help a stroke survivor remember certain tasks or information. To make a mnemonic, connect a task or piece of information to something meaningful, such as an image, familiar name or song.
  • Keep it simple. Try not to tackle too many things at once. Break tasks down into steps.
  • Repeat. If a stroke survivor forgets what you say, repeat yourself often and patiently.

Suggestions for stimulating the brain and improving cognitive ability include:

  • Trying something new. Try new hobbies that involve both the mind and body.
  • Exercise. Physical fitness adds to overall physical and mental health.
  • Limit alcohol. Heavy drinking over time can cause brain damage.

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Content Updated: August 2012

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