Health of Older People  |  Uncomplicated Dementia Pathway - No Cognitive Impairment

Health of Older People

Uncomplicated Dementia Pathway - No Cognitive Impairment

The main distinction between memory loss due to aging, and memory loss due to dementia, is that problems in age-related memory loss, do not affect daily functioning, or the ability to live independently.  Age-related memory loss, is not a precursor to mild cognitive impairment or dementia.

Table 1: Characteristics of memory impairment (adapted from Neurological Foundation of New Zealand).

Normal age-related "forgetfulness"

Mild cognitive impairment


Sometimes misplaces keys, spectacles, or other items Frequently misplaces items Forgets what an item is used for or puts it in an inappropriate place
Momentarily forgets an acquaintance's name Frequently forgets people's names and is slow to recall them May not remember knowing a person
Occasionally has to "search" for a word Finding words becomes more difficult Begins to lose language skills. May withdraw from social interaction
Occasionally forgets to run an errand Begins to forget events or newly learned information Loses sense of time. Doesn't know what day it is
May forget an event from the distant past May forget more recent events or newly learned information Working memory is seriously impaired. Has difficulty learning or remembering new information
When driving may momentarily forget where to turn. Quickly orients self May temporarily become lost more often. May have trouble understanding and following a map Becomes easily disoriented or lost in familiar places, sometimes for hours
Jokes about memory loss Worries about memory loss. Family and friends notice the lapses May have little or no awareness of cognitive problems

Last updated : Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Next review date : Thursday, December 13,2018

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