Geriatric Psychiatrist Questions Geriatric Psychiatrist

Does forgetfulness in seniors mean dementia?

My 72 year old mother seems to be forgetting things all the time. Does forgetfulness in seniors mean dementia?

5 Answers

Not necessarily. There are age-related changes in cognitive functions such as memory. With aging, one may observe slower information processing speed, less efficient working memory (ability to hold information in mind while executing a task, such as using a recipe while cooking), some visual changes in space and depth perception. Typically, someone with age-related memory decline is able to recall information spontaneously at a later point, or with some cueing. In Alzheimer's disease, for example, individuals fail to store new memories so that providing cues typically does not help them, i.e., the memory was never stored. Neuropsychological testing is helpful in determining the extent and pattern of cognitive changes. A diagnosis of dementia requires that there are functional losses such as inability to drive, problems managing finances, difficulty using household appliances, and in more advanced stages, difficulties with basic activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, toileting, etc. In short, a diagnosis of dementia requires evidence of functional impairment.
Forgetfulness can be a sign of dementia, or can be a sign of anxiety or stress. Memory testing and geriatric evaluation will make the diagnosis.


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Not always. It could be some other treatable medical condition.
Being forgetful does not always equal dementia. However, if the symptoms of short term memory loss, misplacing items & then unable to find them coupled with increased difficulty in managing affairs the patient should undergo screening evaluation for underlying dementia.