Alzheimer’s: How Does it Impact Memory

Alzheimer’s: How Does it Impact Memory

Alzheimer’s: How Does it Impact Memory

Today we are going to talk about Alzheimer’s and memory. We will answer the questions: How does Alzheimer’s impact memory and where in the brain does it begin?

First, let us quickly define Alzheimer’s. It is a degenerative neurological disorder that usually impacts people in old age. The disease is not a normal part of aging but is more likely to affect aging seniors. However, it is possible for Alzheimer’s to affect middle-aged individuals, though it is rarer.

How Does Alzheimer’s Affect Memory?

Today, we distinguish between three types of memory: Long-term memory, short-term memory, and working memory. Long-term memory is what people typically mean when they speak of “memory.” It’s the memory that allows us to recall events from years ago with relative accuracy. Short-term memory, on the other hand, is much more limited but is equally beneficial for survival. Short-term memory is memory that can hold a limited amount of information only for a short period. Think of what happens when you see a phone number. Most people might be able to hold the number in their head long enough to dial the phone, but then the number might vanish from their mind. This form of memory is crucial because it allows our brain to “filter” information that is important, leaving out all of the other irrelevant information coming at us. Just think about how much you see and hear throughout the day–we would be overwhelmed if our minds tried to store it all! Lastly, working memory is memory that helps you accomplish tasks, like cooking or solving a math equation. Working memory is not so different than short-term memory other than the fact that it helps you accomplish tasks successfully. [1]

Alzheimer’s impacts short-term memory in the initial stages. This is because it begins in the hippocampus, which is responsible for storing new memories. If short-term memories can’t make it to long-term memory, then it will likely be forgotten forever. This is why many Alzheimer’s patients can remember events from childhood and early adulthood but often forget what happened a few hours ago. The disease then begins to affect the temporal lobe. The temporal lobe is responsible for processing sounds, speech, and words. Many people with Alzheimer’s will eventually experience problems with speech, which is why it becomes increasingly difficult to communicate with your loved one while you are caring for them. After a while, the disease begins to deteriorate the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for judgment and decision making. Eventually, many parts of the brain are impacted to the point where Alzheimer’s patients may experience hallucinations and, eventually, a complete inability to care for themselves. [2]

Because Alzheimer’s impacts different parts of the brain at different rates and times, it is impossible to have one exact description of what might happen. Alzheimer’s impacts everybody differently. Because this is a complex disorder, caring for your loved one will often take a team of people, including you, professional caregivers, and other friends/family. Fortunately, there are resources at your disposal to help you with such a task.

If you have anymore questions about Alzheimer’s and how it affects the brain, then please call ElderCare at 888-285-0093.

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