When Is Memory Loss A Problem For Veterans?

When Is Memory Loss A Problem For Veterans?

September 09, 2021


Memory loss can be a normal part of getting older. It also may indicate the start of a serious problem, especially for veterans. Because they suffer from traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder at a higher-than-average rate, veterans are also at risk of memory loss and dementia. Knowing the signs of problematic memory loss is key to getting a diagnosis and treatment to help you or your loved one live with memory loss. 

Memory loss can be a product of both physical and psychological conditions. These include:

  • Head injury
  • TBI
  • Illness
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Sleep deprivation

Research linking PTSD and TBI to memory loss in veterans has been conducted in recent years. These are both prevalent conditions for those who served in Afghanistan and Iraq. It seems that suffering a traumatic head injury with resultant loss of consciousness makes a person most likely to develop memory loss.

How do you tell when memory loss veers out of normal territory then? Some of the early signs of problematic memory loss include:

  • Trouble concentrating
  • Losing items like keys, bags, phone 
  • Forgetting names, dates, recent events
  • Difficulty finding words when speaking
  • Repeating things
  • Personality changes
  • Mood swings
  • Confusion
  • Getting lost 
  • Not taking care of tasks and/or self 

Memory loss and dementia are progressive conditions, so that they will worsen with time. Symptoms likely will occur gradually and might be hard to notice right away. Treatments and therapies that can slow the development of dementia are available through VA Healthcare. 

Some ways to help prevent memory loss at bay include eating well, exercising, getting adequate sleep, abstaining from alcohol, drugs and tobacco, and wearing protective headgear when appropriate. There are ways to “exercise” memory at home, such as doing stimulating activities like reading, writing, word games, and puzzles. 

If you are concerned about changes in memory or cognition in yourself or another veteran, speak with a VA physician about them. The sooner it is recognized and treated, the better the outcome may be. Care options vary and can be tailored to the needs and circumstances of each veteran.