Effects of Stress on a Senior’s Short-Term Memory Loss

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How Does Stress Affect Short-Term Memory Loss?

By Ted Holmgren, 9:00 am on August 8, 2016

Stress is a powerful component of daily life. Though good stress can help seniors achieve their greatest potential, bad stress can have detrimental effects on their health, including a significant impact on short-term memory. Many studies have made connections between having too much stress in life and a limited short-term memory. Scottsdale caregivers discuss a few of these connections.

Stress Has a Potentially Long-Lasting Impact

A 2002 study performed by Kevin B. Baker and Jeansok J. Kim, researchers at Yale University, revealed rats that were exposed to stressful situations showed more problems with short-term memory 3 hours after the stress occurred, but had normal memory 5 minutes after the stress. These findings seem to indicate short-term memory isn’t affected when the stress is happening or immediately after. Instead, the stress builds up and significantly impacts the ability to remember things for quite some time after the stress ends.

Information May Become Difficult to Process

Some studies have shown a link between stress and less effective processing of information in the brain. If your elderly loved one is not processing information effectively, he or she may have difficulty learning new concepts and keeping up with daily life. For instance, your loved one may look up a number in the phone book and not remember the number long enough to place the phone call. If your loved one is experiencing stress, this likely means the stress affected his or her memory processing and prevented his or her short-term memory from holding on to the series of numbers it needed to remember.

Learning New Things Can Become a Challenge

When your loved one experiences stress, his or her short-term memory doesn’t work as effectively to convert information to the long-term memory. Short-term memory only retains information for a few seconds to a few minutes, but short-term memory is also responsible for moving information into the long-term memory. However, stress significantly impacts and impairs the short-term memory’s ability to do this job effectively.

Chronic Stress Has a Larger Impact

New studies are emerging that show acute types of stress caused by traumatic events don’t have a large effect on short-term memory. Instead, these studies indicate residual chronic stress has a much bigger impact on short-term memory. Small stressors that build up over time and are lasting, such as loneliness or worrying about finances, can actually be more detrimental. According to the CDC, seniors are at a high risk for consistent levels of chronic stressors. Check in with your loved one and try to mitigate ongoing stressors to prevent the effects they can have on his or her short-term memory.

Stress can make it difficult for seniors to maintain their emotional wellbeing. At Home Care Assistance, we offer a program called the Balanced Care Method, which helps seniors focus on calmness and purpose in their lives so they can remain happy and healthy. For more information on the elder care Scottsdale, AZ, families count on, call one of our Care Managers today at 480.448.6215.