As we grow older many things change, and one of those things is our memory. This is why most people use sticky notes and calendar reminders to make sure they don’t forget certain tasks in daily life or events. When we grow older, we experience more frequent memory loss. This is completely normal when it comes to aging. Although people who suffer from dementia experience a high level of memory loss, there is a difference between normal aging forgetfulness and dementia. Before panicking and assuming you have dementia, you need to understand what the symptoms are of each.

How to Tell The Difference Between Normal Forgetfulness and Dementia

Normal Forgetfulness

While it can be frustrating, this type of forgetfulness comes with aging. Normal forgetfulness is not something that should be alarming and cause any panic. A few symptoms of normal aging forgetfulness include:

Absentmindedness and Transience

These two conditions are a normal part of aging according to Harvard Medical School. Absentmindedness relates to the focus of your brain, which could be like forgetting an appointment because your mind was not preoccupied with the thought of it. Transience describes the situation when individuals forget memories over time. This is just the brain removing unnecessary memories and making space for new ones.

Forgetfulness and Mental Issues

Memory loss can occur due to an individual’s health conditions deteriorating according to the National Institute on Aging. People who have had or continue to struggle with mental health issues like depression are sometimes mistaken for having similar symptoms to dementia.

When someone is dealing with depression, they are highly preoccupied with what has caused their sadness and their anxiety. When someone is constantly worrying and/or obsessing over a recent tragedy, it can lead to forgetting other memories or topics.

Signs of Dementia

Those who suffer or are diagnosed with dementia will experience memory loss which is progressive. The level of memory loss will steadily worsen, and the individual will eventually have to be moved into an assisted living facility, as they will not be able to live on their own. Warning signs of dementia include:

Personality Change

People may experience extreme changes in personality according to the Alzheimer’s Association. When seniors are in the middle stages of dementia, they will suddenly become more prone to paranoia, impulsiveness, and even aggressive behavior.

Forgetting Important Information

When someone is suffering from dementia, it is not about forgetting a thing as simple as where they have left an object or the date of an appointment that they had scheduled. Instead, this kind of memory loss can cause an individual to forget the names of their family members and friends. These types of memory problems should prompt you to take the individual to a medical professional for diagnosis.


Another common symptom that those who suffer from dementia will experience is a tendency to become disorientated in new environments. This disorientation extends to both time and place according to the University of Illinois.

When an older individual is or is starting to struggle with dementia, and moves to an unfamiliar environment, the unfamiliar stimuli can start to induce the feeling of insecurity, causing panic and anxiety within the person. Elders experiencing dementia and becoming disorientated will seem extremely lost to onlookers and they can become aggressive, especially with caregivers.


When it comes to differentiating between normal forgetfulness and dementia, you need to take a closer look at the symptoms. While senior citizens have symptoms that overlap, memory loss is more intense in those who experience dementia. This is because the memories that they lose are highly important which normal forgetfulness cannot explain.

Normal forgetfulness is not progressive and should not be a cause for concern. Dementia on the other hand will develop and worsen over time. If you have tried to identify what the individual is experiencing and you still do not confidently have an answer, you should talk to a doctor near you. What could make the diagnosis a lot easier is to take the person to a doctor who already knows them. This doctor might be able to pick up on signs and symptoms much quicker.

Additional Information: 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s

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Nye Health Services is passionate about providing older adults with a wide range of wellness and health services that maximize health and well-being. If you are searching for a senior living community, explore one of our five locations in eastern Nebraska. Each campus provides award-winning health and wellness services, comfortable apartments and/or suites, and numerous amenities to help you live 2022 to the fullest! Contact us today to learn more about what sets Nye apart or to schedule a tour of a community near you!

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