Causes of memory loss that aren’t Alzheimer’s

When your senior family member begins to get forgetful, your first thought may be of Alzheimer’s.  While this does affect many older people, it is not the only cause of memory loss.  Before you assume that it is the cause, rule out other problems.

Medications and Treatments

Certain medications can cause memory loss; you may notice it in the list of side effects.  Anti-anxiety medicines often cause issues with memory.  Treatments for cancer like radiation or chemotherapy can also affect memory.  Some treatments cause temporary loss for a few hours after they are given, while others may cause ongoing confusion.

You can read on the information pamphlets that come with the medication to find out if memory loss is a side effect.  Sometimes it is not the medicine itself, but the interaction between two medicines that causes the problem.  You can talk with a doctor or pharmacist if you are concerned that this might be the cause.  Often, a substitute can be used to prevent these problems.


Certain illnesses can cause temporary memory loss, especially if there is an infection.  For instance, bladder infections or UTIs can cause confusion or forgetfulness.  With these types of health problems, the person’s memory usually returns once the infection is cured.

Other illnesses cause a loss of brain cells that makes the memory problems permanent.  This includes diseases such as Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis.  When this happens, there is no cure or return to previous health.


Different areas of the brain control memory and when they are damaged, it can cause temporary or permanent memory loss.  For instance, anything that results in a lack of oxygen for a period of time can damage the memory.

While this is often permanent, it is not always correctly diagnosed.  A senior can have a fall that no one knows about even if it results in a concussion.  Having a caregiver come into their home on a regular basis can allow you to know more about what is going on with them.


It is commonly known that drinking alcohol causes impairment to the brain with temporary memory loss as a result, which is often seen as a blackout.  However, long term effects of alcohol include a thiamine deficiency.  This deficiency can cause a serious condition called Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome and result in permanent memory loss.

Mental Conditions

As seniors age, they can become more prone to depression and anxiety.  Both of these can impair their memory and make them more forgetful.  They may have problems concentrating on things or maintaining focus, which can prevent them from learning new information.  Sleep loss is also a common problem for seniors; this also causes problems with remembering things because they are tired and their brain is foggy.

Once these problems are taken care of, the person’s memory should return.  The problem is with diagnosis and finding the proper treatment.

Poor Nutrition

Seniors often do not have a healthy diet if they do not have someone as a family member or a caregiver to prepare their meals for them.  They are either not hungry or too tired to fix a nutritious meal.  This results in a lack of nutrition; some of which can affect their memory.  B12 and B1 are two vitamins that aid in memory and a lack of them can cause forgetfulness and memory loss.

To help with this issue, you can either prepare meals ahead of time or use a homecare services caregiver to fix meals for the senior.  The interaction with a caregiver during their meals can help them have an increased appetite and give them better nutrition.

The Importance of Diagnosis

Many factors that affect the memory can be repaired and allow the senior to think clearly again.  A change in prescribed medications may treat the cause for memory loss and remove the fogginess and confusion.  Even with factors that cannot be altered, such as Parkinson’s disease, medication can slow the progress of the disease or counteract it to allow the senior to think more clearly.

If you suspect that your loved one suffers from memory loss or confusion, contact their doctor to find out the cause.  They can run tests that will help diagnose the cause for the memory loss or confusion and prescribe medications to help with it.

You can’t be with your loved one all of the time, which can increase your worry.  If they are experiencing memory loss, your concern can escalate. Carefect Homecare Services caregivers can assist your senior family member when you can’t be there.  We can help them with their daily needs and monitor their health to alert you when they are experiencing memory loss or other symptoms.