Most people with amnesia have problems with short-term memory — they can't retain new information. Recent memories are most likely to be lost, while more remote or deeply ingrained memories may be spared. Someone may recall experiences from childhood or know the names of past presidents, but not be able to name the current president or remember what month it is or what was for breakfast. A person with amnesia may work with an occupational therapist to learn new information to replace what was lost, or to use intact memories as a basis for taking in new information.
Many people with amnesia find it helpful to use smart technology, such as a smartphone or a hand-held tablet device. With some training and practice, even people with severe amnesia can use these electronic organizers to help with day-to-day tasks. For example, smartphones can be programmed to remind them about important events or to take medications.
Low-tech memory aids include notebooks, wall calendars, pill minders, and photographs of people and places.
Transient global amnesia usually affects patients between the ages of 40 and 80. Patients with this condition are often described – wrongly – as being confused. It presents classically with an abrupt onset of severe anterograde amnesia. It is usually accompanied by repetitive questioning. The patient does not have any focal neurological symptoms. Patients remain alert, attentive, and cognition is not impaired. However, they are disoriented to time and place. Attacks usually last for 1–8 h but should be less than 24 h.