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Aging: Menopause Interventions for "The Change"
Menopause   continuing education social worker CEUs

Section 6
Track #6 - Key Strategies to Fight Brain Fog

CEU Question 6 | CE Test | Table of Contents | Geriatric & Aging
Social Worker CEUs, Psychologist CEs, Counselor CEUs, MFT CEUs

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On the last track, we discussed three emotional symptoms found in menopausal clients.  These three emotional symptoms include:  anger; anxiety; and mood swings.

On this track, we will examine three concepts of memory loss in menopausal clients.  These three concepts menopausal memory loss include:  poor verbal memory; brain fog; and change in thinking styles.

3 Aspects of Memory Loss

#1 Poor Verbal Memory
The first concept of menopausal memory loss is poor verbal memory.  This occurs when certain common knowledge facts begin to slip from a client’s recollections.  This may be the names and telephone numbers of close family and friends.  Because of this, many clients become afraid that they are experiencing symptoms of senility or even Alzheimer’s. 

To assuage clients’ fears, I assure them that this temporary memory loss is simply that:  temporary.  I also remind clients that it is a natural symptom of menopause.  I have found that bringing clients up to date on the medical aspect of these memory losses can help to lessen their fears of more long-term consequences.

Dina, age 52, was a housewife and mother of two teenage girls.  Once she started menopause, she found herself waking up in the middle of the night unable to remember her children’s names.  Dina stated, "It’s so scary!  I feel like I’m going crazy!  I know I have two children and I know that they are both girls in their teens, but I can’t remember for about twenty minutes to an hour that their names are Lauren and Kylie!  My husband thinks I’m getting senile, and I’m starting to believe him." 

I stated to Dina, "Poor verbal memory may be due to general changes in the central nervous system associated with aging.  However, researchers also believe that declining estrogen levels interfere with verbal memory.  It appears that estrogen may affect certain brain enzymes, that alter the metabolism of acetylcholine, a primary neurotransmitter considered critical to memory function.  At the same time, estrogen levels appear to have no effect on spatial memory." 

After explaining all of this to Dina, I gave her several pamphlets and websites that she may visit in order to learn more about her menopause.  I also recommended that she talk to her doctor about possible prescription treatment plans.  Think of your Dina.  Is her memory loss causing anxiety about senility or Alzheimer’s?

#2 Brain Fog
The second concept of menopausal memory loss is brain fog.  Brain fog is of a different nature than verbal memory loss in that brain fog is characterized by certain fuzzy-headedness.  Clients report a vagueness that can set in and that disrupts their functioning.  This can be particularly disorienting if they have a demanding job that requires crisp and quick thinking. 

Low estrogen levels may bring this on, and again, I remind my clients that this symptom usually clears up once the body has finished menopause.  Many women clients will try to artificially clear up their own brain fog through caffeine, but in fact this can worsen their concentration once they have crashed.  Because of this, I encourage clients to drink more water and eat more nutrient-enriched food. 

Francine, age 53, was the head of neonatology at a high-profile hospital.  Lately, she has noticed that she has difficulty concentrating on her patients and their needs.  She forgets dosages right after a nurse notifies her, and she feels as though she cannot follow what is going on.  Francine stated, "I used to be so crisp and on top of everything, but now, it actually feels like my brain is in a fog.  I don’t know what to do!"  Think of your Francine.  How is her brain fog affecting her career?

Technique:  Brain Fog Strategies
To help clients like Dina and Francine, I suggest that they try some "Brain Fog Strategies."  I give these clients a list of three techniques that other clients have found useful in battling brain fog.  These strategies include the following:
Step One - Don’t panic. The more nervous you are about forgetting things, the more you’re inclined to forget things.  If brain fog hits, just relax and allow yourself to absorb the information.
Step Two - Become a list maker. I always suggest that clients experiencing brain fog buy a small notepad with a portable pen that they can pull out at a moment’s notice.  I recommend that the client tries her best to get into this habit in order to facilitate her working schedule.
Step Three - Sleep Better. More REM sleep can greatly increase concentration and the ability to keep up short-term memory matters.

Think of your Francine
and Dina.  What other techniques would you suggest these clients try?

#3 Change in Thinking Styles
In addition to poor verbal memory and brain fog, the third concept of menopausal memory loss is reframing the memory loss to a change in thinking styles.  This is a more positive way to look at brain fog.  According to some doctors, brain fog may be an indication of a change in the way of thinking for many women. 

I remind my clients that in our society, women are encouraged to think like men, that is, in a linear fashion.  In fact, women are much more attuned to intuitive thinking and as they pass through menopause, they may be naturally shifting away from this thinking style and moving toward a more intuitive way of comprehending.  Many female clients find this line of logic comforting and are more prone to accepting the change in their bodies and minds. 

When I explained this concept to Francine, she stated, "I have always felt that I had to switch my thinking in order to function at my job.  That makes so much sense considering the male-dominated society we live in today.  Maybe I should just stop fighting and try to tune into this new ‘intuition’ thing."  Think of your Francine.  Would she benefit from reframing her brain fog to a "change in thinking styles"?

On this track, we discussed three concepts of memory loss in menopausal clients.  These three concepts menopausal memory loss included:  poor verbal memory; brain fog; and change in thinking styles.

On the next track, we will examine three strategies that menopausal clients can use to help them cope with the day-to-day.  These daily menopausal coping methods include:  Watching What You Wear; Going with the Mood Swing; and Lifeline.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 6
What are concepts of memory loss in menopausal clients? To select and enter your answer go to CE Test.

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