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Memory Loss and Cognitive Disorders

At Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, we can help you and your family understand what may be happening and serve as a partner in navigating a path of care.

What is a memory disorder?

Millions of people, particularly those over age 65, may have changes in memory and other cognitive functions, such as language, attention, concentration, judgment and visuospatial skills. While some degree of change is expected with aging, cognitive impairment can be a sign of a more serious underlying condition. This is particularly true if these changes lead to problems with daily activities such as driving, remembering to take medications, cooking or managing finances.

What causes memory changes and disorders?

Several conditions can affect memory and cognitive function. Some common causes include:

  • Medications
  • Infection
  • Paraneoplastic (i.e., cancers)
  • Autoimmune
  • Metabolic problems (e.g., thyroid issues, vitamin B12 deficiency)
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Alcohol use
  • Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias (i.e., frontotemporal dementia, primary progressive aphasia, Lewy body/Parkinson’s disease dementia)
  • Normal pressure hydrocephalus
  • Corticobasal degeneration
  • Progressive supranuclear palsy
  • Vascular changes (stroke, microvascular disease)

How do I know if it's aging or something else?

Sometimes it is not easy to tell the difference between age-related change and early emerging memory disorders. An evaluation with a comprehensive memory care center like Virginia Mason Franciscan Health can help assess for any emerging cognitive disorders and provide a multidisciplinary platform for assessment and coordination of care needs.

Providers and services we offer

Virginia Mason Franciscan Health Center for Neurosciences & Spine offers integrated, interdisciplinary assessment and treatment to address the complex medical, cognitive, behavioral, physical, environmental and psychosocial needs of patients, caregivers and families. Our approach is based on up-to-date principles of dementia care with a patient-centered approach. Providers and services include:

    • Neurological/physical examination
    • Medication management
    • Personalized treatment plan adapted to stages of condition
    • Counseling on behavioral and lifestyle changes for maintaining cognitive reserve
    • Cognitive/memory testing
    • Assessment of depression/family needs
    • Communication training
    • Cognitive rehabilitation and training
    • Driving skills
    • Independent living skills
    • Driving skills
    • Independent living skills

We also offer advanced diagnostic technology such as volumetric imaging studies, PET scans, cerebrospinal fluid studies and neurosurgical support in the event of surgical interventions. We are also closely partnered with local and regional organizations, including the Alzheimer’s Association and clinical trials and programs at the University of Washington.