Memory Loss Resulting from Brain Injury

James F. Humphreys & Associates, L.C. has worked with seriously injured plaintiffs for more than forty years, and we know that some of the most serious injuries are not visible to the naked eye. Our founder, James F. Humphreys, is a former chairman of the Board of Directors of the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) and general counsel to the West Virginia Brain Injury Association, Inc. (WVBIA). Traumatic brain injuries can be devastating to victims and their families in many ways.

Memory loss is one of the most frequent deficits resulting from brain injury.  It is usually one of the first problems to appear after an injury, and one of the last to recover. In fact, studies suggest that 70% of people who suffer a traumatic brain injury will still have memory problems one year after their injury.

Four types of memory may be affected, either singly or in combination. The most common type of memory loss involves short term memory, but long term memory, retrograde memory (the ability to recall events prior to the injury), and   anterograde memory (the ability to recall events after the injury) can also be affected. In most cases, long term memories of family and childhood are not affected, but most people with moderate or severe brain injuries will never fully recover their short term memory.   Brain injuries can make pre-existing memory problems worse, as well as create new problems.

Photo by jesse orrico on Unsplash

Brain injuries can also result in confabulation, or false memory, where the injured person confuses imagination or fantasy with actual memories. Victims may create bizarre fantasies where they are being held prisoner when they are actually recovering from their injuries in a hospital.

Many factors can make memory loss worse, including fatigue, loss of sleep, stress, illness, side effects of medicine, anxiety, depression, and anger. Conversely, a healthy life style can minimize the memory loss associated with brain injuries. Victims of brain injury should exercise regularly, get enough sleep, and avoid stimulants. Mental activity that challenges the brain, such as crossword puzzles, reading, and taking non-credit classes at a local  college can also help. 

Apart from pursuing a healthy lifestyle, there are many things that persons with brain injury can do to cope with memory loss, such as buying appliances that shut off automatically, arranging for automatic payment of bills, using pill organizers to keep track of medications, keeping a card with important information in wallet or purse, and creating checklists for routine tasks. A trusted family member can accompany the patient and keep notes when visiting the doctor.

Various kinds of reminders can be employed. Information should be kept in one place such as a journal or calendar, instead of using multiple sticky notes which can be easily lost or misplaced. Photo albums can also help people with brain injuries to remember past events and people.

It is also helpful to establish regular routines, and to plan what will be done each day and each week. Everything should have its own place in the house, especially items used on a frequent basis, such as cellphones and wallets. Checklists can be used to keep track of what needs to be done, and of what has been done.

Persons with brain injuries may also need to develop new ways of learning, like associating words with visual images, and breaking new information down into small, manageable parts.  Memory rehabilitation programs are available on both an inpatient and outpatient basis in many parts of the country.    

Professional help should be sought when memory loss adversely affects a person’s work, home life, health, or ability to care for oneself or family. A health care provider should also be consulted when there is a sudden change in memory, or your friends and family notice memory problems.

If you or a loved one has suffered a serious brain injury as a result of someone else’s wrongful conduct, please contact us for a free initial consultation at 304-347-5050 (local) or 877-341-2592 (toll free). You may also contact us through our website, www.jfhumphreys.com.

Sources

National Resource Center for Traumatic Brain Injury, Virginia Commonwealth University, http://www.tbinrc.com/cognitive (available on line 7/9/19)

The University of Washington TBI Model System and the University of Washington Medical Center, “Memory and Brain Injury,” https://www.brainline.org/memory-and-brain-injury (available on line 7/9/19)

Garry Prowe, Brainline, “Life with a Brain Injury: Preparing Yourself and Your Family, https://www.brainline.org/article/life-brain-injury-preparing-youself-and-your-family (posted 2/23/10; revised 7/26/18).

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