What’s the Difference Between Memory Loss and Dementia?
As we age, many of us can get forgetful. There are symptoms of memory loss and dementia can overlap. The following information will help you to know about some of the differences between and age-related memory loss.
What is dementia?
The word dementia describes a group of symptoms caused by different conditions that affect the brain. This can include short-term memory problems, language, and changes in perception, mood and behaviour.
You can read more about the different types of dementia >
Dementia vs memory loss
Dementia is not a normal part of ageing. Age-related memory loss and dementia are very different conditions, though they may share and overlap in some symptoms.
Everyone can forget their house keys from time to time, or forget an appointment, but the main difference for someone living with dementia is the frequency and the severity of forgetting.
Over time, the memory loss will become more severe impacting a person’s ability to be as independent as they once were. An example of memory loss becoming more serious is someone not knowing where they are even when in a familiar place.
Normal forgetfulness can be caused by a number of things including lack of sleep and feeling stressed and this usually doesn’t get worse over time. Whereas the memory loss we see for people living with dementia does progress. .
Memory loss, though common, is not the only sign of dementia. Dementia symptoms include the loss of cognitive functions like remembering, learning, thinking and reasoning.
The Alzheimer’s Society has written 5 things you should know about dementia
These memory problems might not be caused by dementia, it might be a result of many other treatable health conditions such as an infection, dehydration or depression.
If you are worried about your memory, or that of a relative or a friend please contact your local GP for advice.
The Alzheimer's Society have some helpful tables to show the difference between natural ageing memory loss and dementia. The tables go through different topics like memory and new information, planning and decision making and many more.
Organisations that can help you
- Call the Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456. Or if you speak Welsh, call the Welsh-speaking support line on 03300 947 400. (Monday to Wednesday: 9am – 8pm, Thursday and Friday: 9am – 5pm, Saturday and Sunday: 10am – 4pm).
- Sign up to Talking Point, an online community for anyone affected by dementia. You can share experiences and get support 24/7.
- Dementia UK have a free dementia helpline on 0800 888 6678 (Monday to Friday: 9am-9pm, Weekends 9am-5pm).
- MHA Dementia training – attend our free 1.5 hour Zoom training sessions
Page last updated: September 2023.
MHA in your community
Find the care home, retirement community, or support group that’s right for you