There are many causes of memory loss—many of which are treatable and possibly reversible.

The Causes of Memory Loss in Elderly

As we age, our cognitive skills gradually decline. Memories fade, motor function in the cerebellum begins to slow, and our physical strength and agility naturally decrease.

The truth here is that this will happen to all of us. Even in our younger years, we’re likely to blank someone’s name or forget about an important meeting. 

Aging can be a frustrating reality. 

But most of the symptoms mentioned above aren’t cause for concern or panic. 

These occasional memory lapses are typical for most—just part of the aging process, not a warning sign of the onset of Alzheimer’s.

If you find yourself caring for an aging adult, understanding the root causes of memory loss in elderly is critical. In many cases, you might find that what seem to be the inevitable signs of dementia are actually the result of specific lifestyle factors—that can often be reversed. 

Because sometimes, even what looks like significant memory loss can be caused by treatable conditions.

But before we outline these external factors, let’s talk about the natural causes of age-related, short-term memory loss in elderly:

  • The hippocampus—the part of the brain that helps people process and retrieve memories—tends to atrophy as we age.
  • The body’s ability to produce proteins and hormones that repair brain cells and stimulate growth starts to slow over time.
  • A decrease in blood flow to the brain impairs memory and leads to changes in cognitive skills.

Reversible Causes of Memory Loss in Elderly

Several medical issues can cause memory loss or other dementia-like symptoms. Most of these conditions, however, can be treated so we recommend a health screening with a trained medical professional before anyone starts making drastic changes to their lifestyle. 

You might find that cognitive issues are caused by one of the below factors:

Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol has a funny effect on the brain. It gives us an inflated sense of courage and confidence, and sometimes it can feel good to have a glass of wine or two. But heavy or excessive drinking can cause a number of cognitive impairments, including loss of memory, slow motor function, and poor decision-making.  When mixed with medications, these symptoms can become even more severe.

Poor Sleep Habits

Many experts believe that sleep deprivation results in trouble learning and focusing, and reduced decision-making skills. That’s because, during deeper stages of sleep, the hippocampus transfers newly made memories to the prefrontal cortex (for storage) while filtering out unnecessary information. If we don’t get enough quality sleep, this process is interrupted.

Lack of Exercise

You’ve probably heard that everyone should get up and move around for at least 30 minutes every day. That’s because exercise isn’t just good for your heart and body. It’s also great for the brain—and many studies show that exercise does wonders for memory and critical-thinking skills. A University of Maryland study of brain health in older adults shows that just one session of exercise increases activation in the brain circuits associated with memory. 

Other results varied, but many participants—specifically those diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment—saw improved verbal fluency and increased brain function after 12 weeks of regular exercise.


Some medications, or a specific combination of medications, can cause forgetfulness or confusion. In fact, one of the most common side effects of prescription drugs is cognitive impairment. If someone you know is experiencing symptoms of memory loss, take a look at all the drugs they’re taking and encourage them to talk to their pharmacist or doctor about their options. Even over-the-counter meds like diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and chlorpheniramine (Dimetapp) are associated with memory concerns, so make sure to give every label a thorough review. 

Anxiety or Depression

Along with all the other challenges of aging, older adults are also more likely to suffer from depression. This is a result of the isolation and loneliness that come with old age. And if you’ve ever found yourself in a slump, you may already be familiar with how depression impacts your ability to process information and maintain focus.

But managing episodes of anxiety and depression is possible with support. A doctor can connect you or your loved one with community resources to help. There are also a number of online resources that might be beneficial:

  1. AARP 
  2. Eldercare Locator
  3. National Council On Aging

Getting a Proper Diagnosis

Coming to terms with the severity of memory loss in the elderly and the possible onset of dementia is never easy. But it’s important that you don’t ignore the warning signs or dismiss a loved one’s cognitive decline as something insignificant that doesn’t need attention.

Getting a prompt diagnosis is important, even if it’s challenging. It gives everyone involved—including caregivers and family members—time to seek proper treatment and make any necessary arrangements. 

If you have any concerns or want more information on the other causes of memory loss in elderly, contact your care provider as soon as possible.

If you’re looking for outside support to care for a loved one living with Alzheimer’s or dementia,  please reach out. 

We can help.


Our resident specialist will give you a private tour of The Moments Memory Care Community and answer any questions you may have.

Safety Protocols

Our HVAC system was uniquely designed to deliver six complete air changes per hour which means clean air, safer air, throughout the building. Our resident rooms have individual fresh air and filtration above the windows, both designed to increase safety and sanitation levels.

Our normal protocol includes rigorous daily disinfecting of resident rooms and common areas. During every shift, staff disinfects doors, handrails and other common areas.

Meals have shifted from community gatherings to small group, socially distanced meals that are served in shifts, tables and chairs are sanitized after each seating.

ALL residents and staff are tested bi-weekly, at a minimum and take temperature checks are conducted daily of all residents.

Anybody – staff, caregivers, residents, vendors – who enters The Moments will pass through the ENTRY where Far-UVC lighting will inactivate surface-level viruses and bacteria

Additionally, prior to each
shift staff:

  • Undergo a health
    screening, temperature
    check and contact risk
    evaluation surveys prior
    to entering the building
  • Are required to wear a
    facemask and goggles
    at all times
  • Constantly conducting
    thorough handwashing
    and hand sanitization
    during their shifts

Essential caregivers/visitors
are required to:


  • Undergo a health
    screening, temperature
    check and contact risk
    evaluation surveys prior
    to entering the building
  • Wear masks during
    their visit
Published On: November 23, 2021