Which Types of Memory Are Affected by Alzheimer’s?

By Mark Schmidt, 9:00 am on June 3, 2019

We tend to think of memory as a basic cognitive function that’s either present or not present. However, the reality is that several different parts of the brain are involved in storing memories. Therefore, it’s possible for people to lose some types of memory while retaining others. Alzheimer’s disease is a very specific type of dementia that affects the brain in unique ways, so it’s fairly common for seniors with Alzheimer’s to encounter these memory loss types.

Semantic Memory

Semantic memory is essentially the ability to recall things based on context. As the part of memory that stores people’s interactions with the world around them, semantic memory is responsible for storing language. Seniors with Alzheimer’s tend to start out with a form of memory loss that causes them to mix up similar words like “chicken” and “bird.” This is often one of the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease, and it can show up years before other symptoms are present. Later on, semantic memory loss makes it difficult for seniors to recognize objects, generate complete sentences, or discuss complex subjects.

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Episodic Memory

This type of memory is used to store information about time and place. It’s normally very important for human actions because it’s used to store all the events and experiences a person has throughout life. Alzheimer’s doesn’t usually destroy episodic memory entirely, but it can damage connections between neurons and make it difficult for the brain to access regions associated with episodic memory. Without the ability to access their episodic memory anymore, seniors with Alzheimer’s may not remember past events such as birthdays, marriages, or career changes.

Short-Term Memory

In the middle and later stages of Alzheimer’s disease, short-term memory capabilities may be almost entirely gone. Short-term memory is stored in the frontal and parietal lobes of the brain, and it can range from memories of events that occurred just seconds ago to those that happened a few minutes ago. Without this capability, seniors may have difficulty with things such as remembering a recent conversation or recalling where they just left their keys. Alzheimer’s also damages the hippocampus area, which transmits short-term memories to long-term memory storage, so making new memories can be a challenge.

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Working Memory

Working memory is closely linked to short-term memory, but it’s a little different because its main function is to temporarily hold on to information while the brain processes it. Since Alzheimer’s greatly inhibits this area of the brain, it can be difficult for seniors with Alzheimer’s to properly process information. When they try to think logically, they cannot access the data needed to make informed choices, which means they cannot regulate their own behavior, make decisions, or think reasonably. 

Without the right assistance, Alzheimer’s can be challenging for seniors and their families to manage. If you’re looking for professional Alzheimer’s care, Tucson Home Care Assistance provides high-quality care aging adults and their families can count on. All of our hourly and live-in caregivers are trained to help seniors with Alzheimer’s live happier and healthier lives, and we also provide specialized dementia, stroke, and Parkinson’s care. If your loved one needs professional care, Home Care Assistance is here to help. Call one of our dedicated Care Managers today at (520) 276-6555 to learn about the high quality of our in-home Alzheimer’s care services.