Memory Loss

Photo of a string tied in a bow around an index finger, signifying memory

Memory loss is something that everyone experiences at times, often increasing with age, or following a stroke. It is estimated that approximately one third of stroke survivors will develop memory problems. The memory problems can be so severe that they interfere with normal functioning and are then called dementia— more common in older stroke survivors.

You may experience memory problems after a stroke. You might 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 common post-stroke condition involving loss of thinking abilities.
Symptoms of memory loss after a stroke may include:
  • Confusion or problems with short-term memory
  • Wandering or getting lost in familiar places
  • Difficulty following instructions
  • Trouble making monetary transactions
Memory loss may be a direct result of stroke, but can also be caused or worsened by:
  • Medications
  • Alcohol, tobacco and drugs
  • Lack of sleep
  • Depression and stress
  • Poor nutrition or diet

Memory can improve over time, either spontaneously or through rehabilitation, but symptoms can last for years. Most treatment for memory loss after a stroke is actually treatment to prevent further strokes. Some stroke survivor’s memory loss may benefit from medications for related problems, such as anxiety, depression or sleeping problems.

There are brain retraining techniques designed to improve your thinking and memory following a stroke. The training can help you improve alertness and attention and adapt to your loss of memory function, but there is 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.

Brain Stimulation Training

Suggestions for stimulating the brain and improving memory and 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.

Improve your daily activities with the following tips:
  • 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.
  • Repetition. If you forget what someone said, ask them to repeat as often as necessary.