Memory loss: How do you help a person... - Memory Health: Al...

Memory Health: Alzheimer's Support Group

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Memory loss


How do you help a person with short term memory? I have problems remembering things, when i read i forgot what i read and i realize that i read with no understand. You have a problem spelling a easy word, like you know the word but you just forgot how to spell then after everything done and gone you remember how it spells. I hate that it happens all the time especially when im doing a test. I need help, i cant stand it, i want help.

8 Replies

Greetings; first let me say something I thought I would never say to a fellow human being after years in tech support: I feel your pain. We can talk about individual causes related to dementia, an umbrella term basically meaning anything that alters the processing of the brain and yes kids, that includes memory loss. I have Lewy Body Dementia, others have Alzheimers or Parkinsons but one thing they all share in common is general dementia. So yes, short-term memory loss is one facet of dementia. If it is pervasive enough to cause problems in daily life, it is a concept you need to get your head wrapped around. Not saying "accept the doom" or anything; read my other words here and you will find my message, such as I have one is anything but that. I do believe that if you do in fact have early-stage (any of the above) the sooner you come to grips with it, the sooner you can actually do something about it.

Now mind you, I am not a doctor; if anything (advice-wise) I am the polar opposite, a random clinically-demented engineer on the Internet. I am comforted by the fact that there are better more-sane voices on the forum that might give you more tangible help but as a patient who has been thru the diagnostic wringer (like most here, my tale is far from unique) I can tell you this:

1. First you asked how to help someone with memory loss, the first thing I would ask is do you have anyone/family member/random neighbor that might act as a "caregiver" for you? If you do in fact have a form of dementia and its progressive (most brain damage not cause by injury is), you simply won't make it w/o the caregiver. If you are outside the US, the term may be different but this is an international forum and others may chime in.

2. What you described as symptoms comes down to one of the more fundamental ways one single symptom of dementia can wreck a disproportionate part of your sounds like you not only have difficulty at memory recall, it also seems that some portion of what you do recall is actually incorrect. This happens to me too; nowadays I just assume my memory of something is faulty and move on; some become belligerent when their memory of things conflicts with reality. I would say if you are self-recognizing these sorts of things now, you probably will not fall into that camp.

3. I don't know what your personal medical situation is but were I you and wanted answers I would first seek out a competent neuropsych test; as your GP about this. This is a family of tests for determining mental decline. Some are very short quick 5-minute tests administered in the doctors office, totally worthless unless you are so far gone you could not complete the test in the first place. The other one is longer, administered via a qualified neuropsychologist and can take 4 or more hours to complete. This is IMHO the gold-standard and not only will be able to determine if you have cognitive defects (get used to that term) but approximately how advanced they are but also and in my mind, most importantly they can usually determine which parts of the brain are affected (memory, motor skills, executive function, etc). This can go a long ways to explaining things in your life that now seem unexplained. Getting those answers is paramount.

4. Once you have failed that (and it sounds like you will) then the doctors will go through a byzantine array of testing to determine if its Alzheimers, Parkinsons, Lewy Body or something else. But the thing I gotta warn you about is, there is no testing for these things outside of the autopsy so the way they figure out if its one of these things is to test for EVERYTHING ELSE. I am not exaggerating. Once everything else is ruled out, the last trick in the show is to determine which of these is the culprit and if you thought it was odd how they ruled everything else out, wait until you see the way they try to pick from the three amigos. From one perspective this is dangerous and from another it matters very little.

It is dangerous because brain damage is brain damage; with Alzheimers its more cognitive, with Parkinsons its more motor control/physical and LBD is a mix of the two with many elements of both. What this means is with incomplete information its not hard for a doctor to jump to the wrong conclusion and prescribe drugs for that conclusion. If the doctor is right, cool but its not like if you take a pill for something you don't really need, little happens (think: taking an aspirin when you have no headache for example) with these kinds of drugs, severe reactions are common, particularly with LBD; antipsychotics can make us crazier. So getting a correct diagnosis is important.

It also doesn't matter though because it doesn't matter if I have Lewy Body and you have whatever you end up with, we both forget enough to make life a cast-iron....well, you know. My neuros can spend the rest of my life arguing about which is more likely for me, my daily fight is with the dementia, memory loss, corrupt memory recall and a whole fun host of Parkinsons symptoms. So this is not a bad place to be (we are all fighting that same fight)...

5. One other thing I would ask about your symptoms is what you might perceive to be distractions; you mentioned taking a test. When you are trying to accomplish something on your own and someone distracts you with a question or even if you suddenly see something unrelated to what you are working on that yanks your attention away from your project so much that you have a really hard time getting going again? If so, I would be concerned about frontal lobe damage which impacts whats called executive functioning, or the ability to more thing to report to the neuro and one more thing the 4-hour neurospych tends to shake lose where the short one does not.




EDIT: As a reread what I wrote, it pointed out another subtle form of all these symptoms, aphasia which comes down to a difficulty communicating. Some aphasia like mine is expressive; the wrong word comes out and if I try to force the right one I can almost go into brainlock if I work long enough. Some aphasia though is comprehensive; you can't understand what you read or are told. Not total comprehension but more like if someone said to you I want the pizza for dinner and in your mind you heard "liver and onions". In my case, rhyming words, opposite words and sometimes no words (just skip that part of the sentence) come out when I try to speak and to a lesser degree type. Thats why you will find butt-loads of typos in my stuff. Sorry; nature of the beast. Now let me go correct what I got into this for...


Sunique in reply to jeffcobb

Im 18 and i hate it

jeffcobbAmbassador in reply to Sunique

Hrmmm your 18 and you hate being 18? Or you hate the memory issue at this age? The former only time can correct but take heart, its a malady experienced by literally anyone older than 18. However hating the memory thing at 18, I get it. I am 56 but have the symptoms of a 65 year-old (dementia-wise) and already catch crap for it. People (docs and mere mortals) don't see it but it digs every time I hear it. The thing is, if you are catching crap for it at 18 its worse because of the broken logic that "since dementia is an age-related condition", the younger you are with cognitive problems, the more likely it is to be a "personal problem" as we used to say in the army a lifetime ago, basically not one worth worrying about. For years I was an engineer slowly losing abilities I had a hard time even describing to doctors or even my wife. Can I ask a question? Have you caught yourself subconsciously compensating for the memory issue(s)? Like before when I would start a subject of conversation and suddenly "lose my place" I would instinctively change the subject to anything else to theoretically cover my mistake. I could catalog many but the answer to this can tell me alot. Are you in the US? Just asking that one so I know just how unqualified any answers I give might turn out. The younger you are the harder it will be to convince someone there are indeed problems that need addressing. BTW have these symptoms slowly gotten worse over time or did they suddenly seem to trigger after some event in your life? You really want one like that (if you have one at all) because that can be managed and lived with; the other type can only be died with. Just speaking plainly. As you are new, something I wish management would mention to new folks is that odds are that anything you read here may be written by a demented mine such as my own or my fellow smart-ass patients here and as such can go in literally ANY direction at any time. So take anything I say with a 20lb grain of salt, OK? Randy is more serious; he (LBD like me) was a doc in a previous life and has that patient thing going on. Me, was an engineer nerd and tend to speak a little too....specifically sometimes. So "Caveat (whatever the Latin word for "reader" is)".

Oh and FWIW, 1979 was an *excellent* time to be 18......(evil grin).


Sunique in reply to jeffcobb

The memory loss started way before i was 18 i struggle with my grades because of it. I did 5 subjects but passed 1. When i read i forgot what i read say and i realize that i read with no understand like we got something to do in class and i was searching online for infomation i found some but when i read i dont understand a thing. Why is this happening to me?

jeffcobbAmbassador in reply to Sunique

Well Sun, it sounds like you nailed it in the OP, memory loss. Can I ask you something else that-may-seem-unrelated-but-its-not: have you found it harder to enjoy a new movie or book? I don't mean like a sequel to something else where you already knew the plot and most of the players, I mean something totally new? Thats something we have in common here because you can't keep enough of the plot thread(s) in your head to enjoy anything more than the most basic eye-candy filled flicks. When things first started happening for me I found new movies to be hard to watch and then reading new books became so hard I could not finish one; could read one a day before with ease and pleasure. Now? Now trying to watch new episodes of shows I like, where I know the plot and characters is becoming almost painful. So there is a reason for the question. As to your "why" query, thats where basically two tests will give you most of the answers you will need to know, the neuropsych I spoke of which then should lead to one of those PET scans that does the radioactive injection first. Thats what showed my Lewy Bodies (protein deposits in the brain) and kinda tied things with a bow.

Sun, you may feel lost and alone right now (feelings of isolation are common) but I can only tell you with all the honesty in my heart and mind that you are already ten leagues ahead of most in this case, because knowing the cause and confirming the condition is the only first rational step you can take to making the most of this...poorly worded. Try again: by actively pursuing an answer you will avoid some pretty bleak stuff. Some don't want to know, want to go along pretending nothing is wrong, etc. It never ends well. Put it this way: the not-knowing or having the wrong answer was directly responsible for the end of comedian Robin Williams, true stuff. He had what I have and when he finally got a diagnosis it was the wrong one (Parkinsons I think instead of LBD) and was prescribed the right stuff for PD but the wrong stuff for LBD and ....that was that. So find your answer, we are here to help, we have walked this road, though not at your tender age. The other big reason for your wanting to know might save you is that your testing will more than likely reveal the cause of the memory issues and if caused by a stroke or TIA (like mini-strokes), the damage that was done is done and won't get any worse (as long as more strokes don't happen natch). This is something you can build on and make a more sane plan for the future; this is where cognitive therapy (just stuff to help you learn) can help. If its disease-related (AD, PD, LBD, et al) then there isn't much you can do about it. At least traditionally since the person getting it is retired and frankly close to room temperature anyway, they figure why try.

So knowing is maybe the most important thing in your life. One thing just came to mind. The dude who runs this part of HealthUnlocked (maybe he runs to whole thing, I don't know) is the same dude behind My Brain Test (.org I think). I bet there is a test there you can take to test different functions in your brain and give you a clearer picture. The other thing this can give you is something to hold in your hand and pass to parents, doctor etc to prompt more proper testing. I know how hard it can be to try to describe what you think you feel is going wrong inside...I know it well. So the sooner you have someone or something like a report or document to help speak for you (and in a language docs will understand FAR better than your own attempts to describe it) you will be much farther down the path to an answer.....

Christian will chime in here soon I hope with specifics....

Keep the faith. Thats an Army thing, not a church thing...just means relax I (we) got your back.



Hi Sunique,

Randy here, the other LBD nut that Jeff referred to. I have little to add to what Jeff has said, he seems to have covered things quite well. However, I would like to say that, at your age you, will have to be determined in many cases to get the appropriate people, ie., physicians, to take your memory issues seriously. The prevailing thought is you’re just too young for that type of memory loss, it’s probably just stress, etc... Even in my mid 50’s at diagnosis, I was looked at skeptically as being too young to have serious memory issues.

Also, I would suggest you immediately start journaling any and all issues you are noticing with specific references to the issues you are experiencing. Even better, if you have someone close that is noticing the same issues as you, it would be great if they could journal your progressive issues in their own words. This contemporary history of your condition would be very informative to your docs and go along way to convincing them of your actual symptoms.

Although dementia is extremely common, it is poorly understood. Once the average person, even many medical practitioners, hear dementia, all they hear and know is Alzheimer’s. As Jeff stated, how the patient’s dementia is treated is of utmost importance as the wrong treatment can cause drastic consequences even though most of these dementias seem to be closely related. Therefore, you, or someone close that you can trust, need to do some research into the qualifications of your prospective doctor. Even if it’s a neurologist, make sure they’re well versed in all different forms of dementia and their treatments. In my case, I was absolutely astounded to find the high number of practitioners who knew LBD ny name only and very little else. As both my parents died of forms of LBD, I was well versed in its signs, symptoms, and progression. Unfortunately, I found myself educating many of the practitioners in that area of dementia. I consider myself lucky in that respect because I knew what was happening, was able to lead my docs in the correct direction from an early stage and saved myself months, if not years, of diagnostic limbo.

It just occurs to me that I’m responding as though you definitely have dementia. Please don’t let me lead you down that path. There is just simply no way of knowing without the appropriate testing, including neuropsych, radiologic, psych, neuro, CBC,... basically a complete work up and coordinated evaluation. There are other possibilities out there, we just don’t have as strong a basis to comment. Bottom line is, you seem to present enough “problems” that I believe it warrants an immediate evaluation.

And please don’t forget, many of the responses you will receive here are from diseased minds, mine and Jeff’s in particular. So if some parts of the response seemed disjointed or words seem to be missing, well, they probably are. Although it makes sense in our head at the time it often doesn’t come out that way, or at all. So read what we say with a critical eye and ask lots of questions. Especially to things that we have made as clear as mud.

Don’t give up, it gets very discouraging but ultimately you’ll never regret the fight and we’re here to fight with you.



Hi Sunique,

Welcome to the community. Jeff and Randy have made some good points.

A few thoughts from me:

1. Does this happen all the time, or just under stress - like at school or a job? Part of what you describe sounds like "test anxiety". Here are some tips on how to handle test anxiety:

2. Reading comprehension is very important. If you're having some problems with reading, suggest you look into getting some help -- a school psychologist or teacher specializing in reading comprehension would be a good place to start.

Hope this helps.

All the best.

Thank you

For 1) it comes and goes i dont know why it comes though. It starts with the shakeing then the breathing then the chest pain and then the weak knees.

For 2) yes i am having problem somethings because i forget what the word yes and how the simple words spell. What i have realize is that i dont understand what i read about.

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