In addition to the dangerous physical side effects, strokes can cause more than just decreased mobility. In the weeks, months or even years following an episode, those who have suffered a stroke often experience some form of memory loss.
The National Stroke Association estimates that approximately one third of stroke survivors will develop memory problems. “Whether a person who has had a stroke suffers memory loss or other cognitive problems has to do with where in the brain the stroke occurred, as well as other factors, including a person’s age,” said Dr. Mohini Gurme, a neurologist with Rockland Neurological Associates in West Nyack.
In addition to affecting memory, a stroke can impair a person’s processing speed and ability to multitask, she noted. When a person comes in complaining of memory problems -- or their loved one brings them in -- Gurme will often ask about day-to-day functioning. Are they forgetting things, getting lost while driving, having trouble cooking meals or missing making payments on their bills? “Often the people around the patient are the ones who notice the memory loss, not the patients themselves,” she said.
The National Stroke Association offers the following tips for coping with memory loss, whether caused by a stroke, other medical condition or aging:
- Have a place for everything and put things away where they belong.
- 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.
- Keep a notebook of important information handy. Organize it into sections, such as appointments, phone numbers and medications and put notes in prominent places.
- Memory cues help remind us of 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.
- Try not to tackle too many things at once.
- If you forget what someone said, ask them to repeat as often as necessary.
“If your loved one starts showing signs of memory loss, bring them to the doctor right away,” said Gurme. “Don’t wait for the person to make the decision on their own, because they often don’t have insight about what’s happening to their memory. Early treatment can help patients reduce their risk of further strokes, and learn how to improve their daily functioning.”
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