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My mom is in rehab for PT to get her walking again. The social worker came in and gave her 3 words and said remember these, I'll ask for them later. Then he asked what day it is, the month and the year. She got them all correct, but could not remember the words. He gave her strong hints, but she just could not get one.

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Short term memory recall. I have had it during employment interviews too. It is one of many measurements used to check for cognitive decline. I am curious, were you with her and did you remember the words? If yes, how easy or difficult was it to remember?

This test can be very important when you think about new actions that a person may need to take. If your Mum has a new prescription will she remember to take it? Even if she can remember to take the Rx she has been on for years, she may not remember the new one. Will she remember to do her exercises once she is back home? Again, short term memory recall in at play here.

If Mum does not remember having a conversation or phone call, this can be indicative of a problem. Often people post here about family members complaining that no one visits, when the family knows there are regular visitors. Yup, could be short term memory issues.

I went through an incredibly stressful time 5 years ago. At that time my short term recall was terrible. I had to use notes, which I did remember to check, in order to function .
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RitaDenise Feb 21, 2019
the words were sock, blue and chair. he clued her as it was a color, a piece of clothing and a piece of furniture. she didn't get the chair. I did get all three.
draw a clock is my bugaboo. :(

I can see short term decline, but she also has hearing difficulties, but did have her hearing aids in. He did make her repeat the words.

I am curious as to if/what she understands at times. but some of the things she does, she has done all her life.
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This is a frustrating topic. I know my own short term memory isn’t good, hasn’t been for years. I was able to pass the short term memory test only because I concentrated on remembering the three words, at the expense of the rest of my office visit. While concentrating on remembering, the rest of the exam was useless, as I didn’t retain a thing. Geez, I mean, really. I have had issues with memory my entire life, and have always had to write everything down, to function. List making at home, making notes for myself at work, reading a page of words, but not recalling anything I read, all have plagued me my entire life. I made flash cards for myself to study from throughout college, as repetition, and sequencing information helped me retain information. Obviously as a lifetime issue, it’s not a form of dementia for me. But every doctor I ever told about my memory issues brushed me off. Now I’m at an age where people sometimes experience cognitive decline, and I fear at some point I may be misdiagnosed. My armchair diagnosis is that I suffer from C-PTSD from serious childhood narcissistic abuse, inflicted by parents and sibling mobbing. There was also a violent rape as a teenager, by a family member. From my years of reading and counseling , this cognition issue can be a result. It’s sad to have to work so hard to function mentally, whether C-PTSD, PTSD, or some type of dementia. I feel for those going through such difficulty.
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Healthygirl01 Feb 24, 2019
Girlsaylor,
I feel for you.. and i will say that you write very well...your story is just heartbreaking. 😢 With this kind of short-term memory loss we learn to compensate in other areas, which become our strengths. I had a brain tumor in my young forties which affected my sh-term memory, but i do make lists and notes to remember what is important. I also challenged myself to earn a Master’s degree, complete at age 59! You can do amazing things when you put your mind to it. 🤓
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This is just a small part of an MME or Mini Mental Exam.
This is not a great way to assess a persons memory and if this is all they have done I would not put much stock in the results.
And a MME is not given just once it is repeated months later to determine how much of a decline there has been. So if this was the first and only time she was given this "test" I would put even less value to it in the matter of results.
Funny thing is when they gave my Husband 3 words to remember they were something like Denim, Cotton, Apple. He did not recall all of them and I said later if they has said Screwdriver, Hammer, Race Car he would have been able to recall the words.
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if someone asked the tester the same “3 word” questions, s/he might not remember the answer later either. This tests nothing. Take comfort in the correct answers and just love her.
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DetiaO59 Feb 24, 2019
I completely agree. One's family knows how bad it is getting and a simple short memory test isn't going to give them any information that will be helpful
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For my wife, when they give her the MMSE, they use the same 3 words for over a year now. If she is admitted to the hospital and then returns to the NH, she may have the test 4 times in one day. She has taught herself to remember the 3 words over this long period of time. She can't remember if she had lunch but she can tell you the 3 words.
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Jenelle83 Feb 25, 2019
Apple, penny, table.

My mom often mentioned that my late dad's neurologist used the same three words every single time he was tested. Nowadays, when Mom's doctor says, "I'm going to say three words and I want you to remem...", she cuts him off and blurts, "apple, penny, table!"
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My friend got so tired of trying to answer these questions, he finally asked me if it was ok to say to them, ‘On the advice of my attorney I don’t have to answer your questions’! I told him sure, but he never remembered to say it to them. At least he had a sense of humor!
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disgustedtoo Feb 26, 2019
That is hilarious!!! Too bad he forgot to use it.
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Everyone on a rehab team is assessing a person's cognition in one way or another. In the social worker's case, he was giving your mom a cognitive screen to determine if there are any issues with orientation and working memory. It's also not uncommon to ask some basic problem-solving questions just to get an idea of how a person is thinking in the moment. With regard to problems with working memory, this can translate functionally to a person starting something on the stove, going to answer the phone, and then completely forgetting there's something on the stove. Or making a doctor's appointment and then forgetting about it after moving on to something else. It's not always a big issue when someone can't recall the words, but it can be a flag. Did the OT and PT also screen and, if so, did they have any concerns?

You didn't say why your mom is in rehab. Did she have surgery that required general anesthesia? Did she have pneumonia or a UTI? All of these can cause temporary, and sometimes permanent, issues with cognition. Being in a rehab facility also frequently unmasks cognitive impairment because the person is no longer in their own environment. If this is the case, there's often a referral to speech therapy for cognitive interventions.

The best thing to do in this situation is speak directly with the social worker and/or team members if you have concerns. Cognitive assessment should be an ongoing process when someone is in rehab. It's not a one-time screen and everything is determined from that. Your mom's memory lapse may have been situational but if she is showing difficulty in other areas of cognitive function, then this is an opportunity to identify them so that good supports can be put in place.
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RitaDenise Feb 24, 2019
My mom was admitted to the hospital on a Thurs for rapid, rapid heart rate and she also had fluid around her heart - she has Congestive Heart Failure. because she was on a drip to slow down her heart rate, they kept her in bed. she is 90. She needs to get up and walk. Once her heart rate was slowed down, she was moved to a rehab/nursing home to get walking PT. I think this is on of the better ones, plus she had been there in Sept. She falls asleep a lot at home,once she sits down, so cooking is a hazard now - uses a walker and has someone come in to shower her 2X week plus a 3rd day to clean.

I had wondered if she had dementia, but she seemed to be ok. Now however, she is seems to be a bit more difficult. Even with hearing aids, she is very hard of hearing. I am seeing her attempt to read lips also. She was never very bright to begin with, never had a time line ever, is illiterate. she talks about stuff that happens years past as if they happened yesterday.

I live 45 min away, one brother lives 90min away and is having surgery, so he won't be able to come down for at least 6 weeks. she lives in an inlaw apt with our youngest brother, who works some days and some nights and is hardly home. Frankly, I don't want to have to deal with a person that cannot toilet herself and is just plain mean! she is 150 lbs, I can't lift her either.



this nursing home won't talk to me about mom unless she is present. I am thinking that maybe I should just ask my questions anyway. I think I was trying to spare her feelings.

I visited her last night and got an earful! I went to the nursing station and it seems there were just 2 nurses on the floor - not a huge floor by any means. one gave me a difficult time, I am not on her healthcare proxy, but I am on the hippa. says she couldn't talk to me because of not being on the health care proxy - the nursing supervisor said there can only be 2 people on it and I was ok with both brothers. I will be taking one off and adding me.
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I gave them the three words in Klingon but they didn't believe me. Their loss.
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RitaDenise Feb 24, 2019
hehehe!!!
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I had this test at my physical. I couldn't remember the middle word (and was given no hints). I got everything else correct, so I passed the overall test. However, it still bothered me. However, it's almost like remembering names--I'm only likely to remember them if I make a very concentrated effort to do so.

Even when I was school, including university lectures, I found I got relatively little information out of hearing, and often found my classroom notes almost useless, often reverting to textbooks to absorb the subject. I take in information much better by visual rather than auditory means.
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cwillie Feb 24, 2019
I'm like you, things tend to go in one ear and out the other. I used to struggle to force names and numbers into my long term memory but now I don't even bother trying - a bad habit because I'm sure I'd fail the mini mental
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Toothill is correct it is part of a simple cognitive test. If you are interested you can find the entire test on the web. This does not give a complete diagnosis it just helps healthcare professionals get an idea of their patients mental abilities.
As an inpatient I was often asked where I was, the name of the hospital,city etc.
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jacobsonbob Feb 24, 2019
I've sometimes wondered how much faith can be put into incorrect answers for "where are you". If you are taken to a hospital, you might not know to which one you are being taken, and even if you do, you might not know where the dividing lines are between municipalities if in an urban area. When I drive around here I don't always know in which municipality I'm in at a given moment. I don't know if this tests have a strict "right or wrong" grading system or if saying "I'm know I'm either in Suburb A or Suburb B of the Great City metro area" is sufficient.

Likewise with the day or date question. If one is retired, it's likely that the exact date or day is less important than when one was employed or had family members working or in school. A week having a holiday can make it even more confusing. I sometimes have to stop and think to come up with the right answer, or at least "well, I know Friday was the 22nd, so today, which is Sunday, must be the 24th".
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