Memory Loss

Everyone experiences forgetfulness from time to time. As we age, mild memory loss may be normal, but when memory loss interferes with normal functioning, you may be experiencing dementia. Memory loss is more common in older stroke survivors.

Types of memory loss after stroke can include:

  • 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

Symptoms of memory loss may include:

  • Confusion or problems with short-term memory
  • Wandering or getting lost in familiar places
  • Difficulty following instructions
  • Difficulty performing tasks that used to be easy, such as paying bills
  • Trouble following instructions or learning new information and routines
  • Forgetting current or past events
  • Misplacing items
  • Getting lost on familiar routes
  • Problems with language, such as finding the right word or using the wrong word
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Difficulty reading and writing
  • Loss of interest in things or people
  • Changes in personality, behavior, and mood, such as depression, agitation, and anger
  • Hallucinations or delusions (believing something is real that is not)
  • Poor judgment and loss of ability to perceive danger

Memory loss may be a direct result of stroke but can also be caused by another clinical condition, memory condition, or worsened by medications; use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs; lack of sleep; depression and stress; or poor nutrition.

Can memory loss after stroke be treated?

Memory can improve over time, either spontaneously or through rehabilitation, but symptoms can last for years. Your memory loss may benefit from medications for related problems, such as anxiety, depression or sleeping problems. Tests can be done to determine if a treatable medical condition is contributing to your memory loss. However, dementia usually gets worse over time. Your memory loss may benefit from medications for related problems, such as anxiety, depression or sleeping problems.

Brain retraining techniques are designed to improve your thinking and memory after a stroke. The training may help improve cognitive function, but there’s no scientific proof that such therapy can improve your ability to carry out daily tasks. This training can be done in person as well as with computer programs and applications. To stimulate your brain and improve memory and cognitive ability, you can try new hobbies that involve both the mind and body. Also, exercise: Physical fitness adds to overall physical and mental health.

Tips for managing memory loss

  • Have a place for everything. For example, hang keys on a hook by the door. Put things away where they belong.
  • 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. Write things down.
  • Keep a notebook of important information handy.
  • Organize it into sections, such as appointments, phone numbers and medications. Put notes in prominent places and leave written directions on how to use common household items, such as phones and microwaves, next to those items.
  • Use memory cues. Memory cues help you remember certain tasks or information. To make a memory cue, 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 easy steps. “Could you repeat that, please?” If you forget what someone said, ask them to repeat as often as necessary.

Common types of memory loss experienced by stroke survivors


Delirium is a state of sudden confusion that mainly disrupts attention. It is often a reversable state. It’s usually caused by a sudden illness, including infection, dehydration, electrolyte changes, drug toxicity or liver or kidney failure. Stroke is one condition that may make a person at risk for delirium.


Dementia is deterioration of cognition that interferes with daily functioning. It is usually progressive and irreversible. There are several types of dementia. The most common is Alzheimer’s disease, which can co-exist with other health conditions, including stroke. Vascular changes including stroke can lead to vascular dementia, which is the second most common type of dementia.

Mild Cognitive Impairment

Mild cognitive impairment is a stage between normal cognition and dementia. There is greater than normal age-associated memory loss with mild cognitive impairment. Daily functioning is not usually impaired, but the person starts to experience impairment. About half of these patients proceed to dementia within 3 years.