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How Is Normal Forgetfulness Different from Dementia?

Judie Rappaport
November 3, 2021
Benign Forgetfulness begins in middle age.  It is part of the normal aging process and does not interfere significantly with daily activities.
Normal forgetfulness DIFFERS from dementia in the following ways:
  1. If an item is lost, we know how to find it.  People with dementia have poor recall or may confabulate a story to explain the loss.
  2. If a name or fact is forgotten, it is usually remembered later, along with related information.  Dementia patients forget what they want to remember.
  3. Normal forgetting involves distant more often than recent events.  In dementia, people forget both what happened recently and long ago.
  4. Normal forgetting includes unimportant parts of an experience but not the whole experience.  With dementia, people forget entire experiences.
  5. Normally forgetful persons can use reminders and notes better than someone with dementia.  Someone with dementia cannot retain reminders.
  6. Normally forgetful persons retain the capacity to orient themselves.  For example, you may forget where you are upon first awakening in a new place, but know how to search for and use clues.  Dementia interferes with the capacity to find and use information that helps with orientation.
  7. Benign forgetfulness involves memory lapses and word-finding problems.  Dementia causes memory loss & change in personality, behavior, skills.