Vascular Dementia, short-term memory loss and confusion are commonly reported memory related challenges after a Stroke. Approximately one-third of stroke survivors develop memory problems, which at times can be so severe that they interfere with an individual’s normal functioning. The severity and location of stroke decide the nature of the problem.
The human brain needs to interpret, organize and store the information to carry out everyday activities. A stroke can affect any part of this process, resulting in either mild or severe memory-related impairments. Certain medications, alcohol, tobacco, lack of quality sleep, depression or stress and poor nutrition can worsen such problems further.
Stroke-led memory loss could be verbal (memory of names, stories and information having to do with language), visual (memory of shapes, faces, routes and things seen) or informational (memory of information and skills or trouble learning new things). Vascular Dementia, the loss of thinking abilities, is very common among old stroke patients.
Serval studies reveal that people with left-brain stroke tend to experience more short-term memory problems. Such patients’ long-term memory is usually preserved, but they may have difficulty learning new information. They need to be reminded over and over and have things repeated. On the other hand, people with right-brain stroke tend to get things out of sequence or confuse information or misinterpret. As a consequence, they may mix up the event details. Even though they can recall events, they get confused about when they happened or who was involved. At times, these symptoms can last for years after a stroke.
Options to treat memory related problems after stroke
Stroke-led memory problems can be resolved either spontaneously or through rehabilitation. While mild problems can be cured by keeping up with a regular physical fitness regime (as it improves mental health), severe problems can be dealt with the development of memory cues and alternative strategies (having a place for everything, having a routine and writing things down). However, brain training and medications are commonly prescribed.
Certain brain retraining techniques can also be designed to improve thinking and memory following a stroke. These training interventions can help the stroke survivor improve alertness and attention and adapt to their loss of memory function. For instance, Brain Stimulation Training stimulates the brain and improves memory and cognitive ability by asking the participant to try something new (such as new hobbies that involve both the mind and body). However, if such therapy can improve an individual’s ability to carry out daily tasks is still unclear.
Most pharmacological treatments for memory loss after a stroke are actually the treatment to prevent subsequent stroke(s). At times, stroke-led short-term memory loss can be treated by medications for stroke associated problems such as anxiety, depression or sleeping disorder.