Problems with memory and thinking

Problems with memory and thinking are very common after a stroke and most people will have some difficulties. Problems with concentration and memory are especially common.

Why do they happen?

Cognitive problems happen because of damage to your brain.
 
Every second you receive a huge amount of information from the world around you, which your brain has to understand, organise and keep. 
 
If the part of your brain that processes this information is damaged, this can cause a number of problems.

What kind of problems do people have?

After a stroke, it’s common to find it difficult to concentrate or remember certain things. You may also find it difficult to work out how to do something or know how to respond to what’s going on around you. 
 
You may find it difficult to:
  • follow a TV programme or read a book
  • remember what it is that you were doing
  • remember what someone told you only moments ago
  • find your way around
  • work out how to do things you used to do easily, like use the TV remote control or prepare a meal
  • notice things on one side of you.
After a stroke cognitive problems can be quite common. So they can be things like problems with your concentration, difficulty with memory, finding that you just can’t remember things as well as you could before.
Beth, Occupational Therapist

Does it get better?

Problems with memory and thinking are usually worst during the worst few months after stroke, but they can and do get better.
 
They’re likely to improve very quickly over the first three months, as this is when your brain is at its most active, trying to repair itself. 
 
It’s still possible for problems to improve after this, but you may find that it takes longer. Recovery tends to slow down, especially after six months. 
 
Even if your cognitive problems never go away completely, they should not get any worse and most people find that they do get easier to live with.

Are there treatments that can help?

Although there has been research into treatments for these kinds of problems, so far it hasn’t shown that people really benefit from them. Certain therapies may help, but more research needs to be done before doctors can recommend them for general use. 
 
So treatment usually focuses on ways to cope with your problems, rather than ‘fix’ them. Things that help you to do this are known as compensation or coping strategies. 
 
An occupational therapist can help you learn coping strategies. This may involve using aids (such as writing in a diary or using labels and reminders) that can help you manage. Or it may involve learning mental techniques that can help you.

Find out more

Read more, including practical tips about coping with memory and concentration problems, in our leaflet Problems with memory and thinking.

Or if you're looking for more detailed information about different types of memory and thinking problems, download our Complete guide to cognitive problems after stroke.

 

Page published: April 2015. To be reviewed: April 2018.Information Standard logo