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I am asking for an otherwise healthy 90-year-old.

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I have taken one or the other since 2009 for my narcalepsy. They've done nothing for my lousy memory nor have I heard of them used for any non sleep disorder use.
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My husband ordered some type of "smart pill" that he had seen on TV. He didn't order it for short term memory loss--not really sure how he was "lured" by the advertisement. Anyway, once he started taking it, it was as if he was taking an amphetamine ("speed"). He quit taking it after 2 days!
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These aren't "smart drugs" but I take magnesium and B12. I tried to be a vegetarian and found myself developing "brain fog" and both help. Now I eat meat again, but still take those two vitamins.  Some people do fine as vegetarians or strict vegans (no animal products); I didn't. 

Galantamine is used in prescription strength for Alzheimer's, and in lower doses it's available OTC, but since those aren't tested, you can't be too sure what you're getting. It's also known as the "lucid dream drug" (lucid dreaming is when you are consciously aware that you are dreaming). I experimented with it for that, and had such vivid dreams that I woke up exhausted, so haven't been using it, but your mileage may vary.

Maybe try a prescription, starting with a low dose.  Couldn't hurt and might help.  
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I received Memantine or Namenda to treat short term memory loss as a result of 50 plus electric convulsive treatments for depression. I did not have dementia, but Namenda was effective in restoring short term memory caused by the physiological damage of the shock treatments. My 97 year old mother began showing short term memory deficit after requiring oxygen 24/7. Apparently the lack of oxygen caused some brain damage. She, too, responded very well to Namenda and has very little short term memory problems. She does not have any form of dementia. Namenda was developed as a dementia medication, but can be used off label for some non dementia related short term memory problems. In dementia patients, it's useful to show the short term memory loss. Not all short term memory problems are dementia related.
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Don't know about those drugs, but found in working with clients as a Psychotherapist that Zanax, (Alprazolam) disrupts the neurotransmitter receptors in the brain. Short term memory is really impacted in many people who take it for anxiety, so stay away from it if possible. My sister, who passed at age 85 had dementia and, I think, it was exacerbated by taking that drug. daily.
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Mom takes aricept and memanidine (sp?). Both have helped. Prescribed by her neurologist. He diagnosed moderate dementia / alz. These are wonderful.
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If there is no dementia, mention to the doctor to check his B-12 levels. I was having a lot of problems with short term memory. I do not have dementia. I know, just got double checked and I am in a research program. Anyway, I started going to a gerontologist and my Vitamin B-12 was low. I take a gummy bear type thing, that I get over the counter every day. It made a world of difference. I still have some problems, but not near what it was. As my doctor said, it is just normal wear and tear on the brain.
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My mother is taking it (for narcolepsy) as well as Naricept and Namenda (for vascular dementia)
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My husband was prescribed Provigil. I know other people with Lewy Body Dementia who took this drug. That is because LBD includes sleep disturbances, and Provigil works as cwillie says -- as a wakefulness-promoting agent. We were very glad that the drug worked well for my husband. It helped him be awake and alert during the day. It had no effect on memory.

I'm pretty sure his doctor had to justify its use to the insurance company. I don't think this med is prescribed casually. (I can't talk my sleep specialist doctor to prescribe it for me.) So don't be surprised if your loved one's doctor is reluctant.
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The med is like lots of coffee, but spread out in an even flow.
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Thanks for your answers. He has an appointment with his doctor coming up soon so I wanted to discuss it with him. I read this article and was a little hopeful: http://www.modafinilfacts.com/memory.htm
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Modafinil/provigil is a "wakefulness-promoting agent" used to help those with sleep apnea, shift workers etc be more wakeful during the day. My online research shows that this drug is being researched as possibly helpful to improve apathy (different from depression) in dementia and trials are not complete. Nowhere does it mention this drug as helpful in improving memory, and I have found evidence that it can worsen agitation and psychosis in some forms of dementia.
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There is nothing that will improve memory. Is this one of the miracle drugs advertised in the paper or on tv? Do not waste the money. Instead take her to a Geriatric doc for an evaluation.
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