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Memory Systems Affected by Alzheimer’s

By , 9:00 am on

When people think about Alzheimer’s disease, they may not fully understand how it impacts memory. It’s common knowledge that individuals with Alzheimer’s experience decreases in short-term memory early on. However, Alzheimer’s disease also affects several other types of memory.

Sensory Memory

Sensory memory is always working, but without the transfer of sensory memory to short-term memory, it fades quickly. Individuals use their senses continuously. For example, a person who listens to music or watches television while surfing the Web may not remember the music or details from the television show. Simply hearing or seeing information doesn’t mean a person will remember it. Concentration transfers sensory memory to short-term memory. However, the senses can trigger other memories. Smelling smoke could mean there’s a fire nearby. Changes in the brain caused by Alzheimer’s disease can affect the memory and senses. Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease may be unable to smell smoke, meaning there’s no trigger to help them remember that fire is dangerous.

If your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, help is just a phone call away. There are many reasons seniors might need assistance at home. Some may require regular mental stimulation due to an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, while others might only need part-time assistance with exercise and basic household tasks. Home Care Assistance is a leading Rockwall in-home care provider. Families rely on our expertly trained caregivers to help their senior loved ones maintain a high quality of life.

Short-Term Memory

An early sign of Alzheimer’s disease is the loss of short-term memory, which family members and others often attribute to aging or “being a little forgetful.” A senior may put an item away and within seconds forget where he or she placed it. Asking the same question within seconds after someone has answered it is another symptom of short-term memory loss. It might be surprising to learn how brief short-term memory actually is. Information stored in short-term memory is usually retained for only 15–30 seconds.

Working Memory

Working memory is sometimes called short-term memory, but it’s slightly more complex, requiring storing information and being able to process that information to perform a task. Consider the following examples of working memory. A driver enters a new city and stops to ask for directions to a hotel. When the individual hears the information, it’s stored in the working memory. He or she recalls the instructions and follows them while operating a vehicle, watching for pedestrians, and paying attention to traffic signals. The driver arrives at the destination and forgets the driving directions because they’re no longer needed. Following instructions for a recipe also involves working memory. Measuring a teaspoon of sugar after reading that specific instruction in the recipe doesn’t require retaining the information for longer than a few seconds. Immediately after reading the instructions, a person with Alzheimer’s may be unable to measure the correct amount of sugar due to a deficit in working memory. 

Aging adults who need help managing mental and physical health issues can benefit from the assistance of highly trained professional caregivers. Families looking for top-rated elderly home care providers can reach out to Home Care Assistance. From respite care to specialized Alzheimer’s, dementia, stroke, and Parkinson’s care, there are many ways we can make life easier for seniors and their loved ones.

Long-Term Memory

In individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, the loss of long-term memory generally happens as the disease progresses to the late stage. Long-term memories range from childhood memories to those that are a few weeks old. The fact that these memories are still present until the late stage explains why some people with short-term memory loss may be able to recall stories and people from several years back but may not remember the names of their children or grandchildren.

Without the right assistance, Alzheimer’s can be challenging for seniors and their families to manage. If you’re looking for professional Alzheimer’s care, Rockwall Home Care Assistance provides high-quality care aging adults and their families can count on. All of our hourly and live-in caregivers are trained to help seniors with Alzheimer’s live happier and healthier lives, and we also provide specialized dementia, stroke, and Parkinson’s care. Call one of our friendly Care Managers today at (972) 722-7833 to learn more about our customized care plans.