By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Amnesia or memory loss is associated with stress, anxiety and frustration and is often very distressing for the patient as well as for his or her family and friends.
Types of treatment for amnesia
Treatment of amnesia and memory loss include (1-4):
- Cognitive therapy using speech or language therapist can be of help in patients with mild to moderate memory loss.
- In many cases mild memory loss may persist. Treatment of underlying medical conditions leading to memory loss.
This includes treating low thyroid function, liver and kidney disease. Treatment of stroke, head injury, blood clots in brain and bleeding within the brain may be used to reduce memory loss due to these causes.
- Treatment of concomitant psychiatric illness. This includes treating depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
- Treating alcoholism and preventing alcohol and illicit drug abuse.
Home care for amnesia
For management of amnesia home care is essential. Basic tenets of home care and prevention of complications include (5):
- Prevention of falls – Often the elderly suffer from memory loss. This population is also prone to falls. A Fall Detector is part of an emergency call system that are worn on the belt and are sensitive to position. It can detect falls. Good lighting and avoidance of clutter helps prevent falls.
- Doors should be left open and many houses have a provision to keep dangerous materials locked up and make sure the person cannot lock themselves in a room. Rooms can be labelled to prevent patients getting lost.
- To prevent patients getting lost wanderer’s alarms and tags and transmitters may help. Patient is required to carry some form of identification with their name and address or contact number.
- To prevent getting scalded by hot water it is necessary to install hot water shut-down and thermostats. There should be safety taps or tap covers to prevent risk of accidents.
- Common concern in the kitchen is leaving the stove left on. A stove cut off may be used to cut off gas or power after a specified time. There should be a smoke alarm.
- To remind patients to take medications there are medication organisers and pill reminders. The organizers have compartments for regular doses of medication. There are also electric pill reminders that have an alarm to remind individuals to take their tablets.
- All important numbers, such as family and emergency, should be near the telephone. To keep the person oriented to time and place clocks with large numbers and calendars with large print may help reduce anxiety and frustration.
Prevention of amnesia
Prevention of amnesia (4, 6):
- Memory loss may be prevented by healthy living and reduction of risk factors for heart disease, diabetes etc. This includes lowering cholesterol and high blood pressure. This also reduces risk of stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, use of illicit drugs etc. should be avoided.
- There is no evidence that certain herbs like gingko biloba prevents memory loss.
- Regular physical activity helps maintain blood flow to the brain and reduces risk factors of memory loss.
- Healthy and balanced diet is important in reducing risk of memory loss. Green leafy vegetables reduce the risk of decline of memory with age.
- Good social relationships and interactions can help reduce risk of memory loss.
- Brain activity should be maintained. This can be regular reading, writing, learning a new skill, or instrument, doing crossword or puzzles etc. stimulates brain cells and lower risk of memory loss.
Edited by April Cashin-Garbutt, BA Hons (Cantab)
What is amnesia?