Spotting the difference between forgetfulness and memory loss by Catherine Hall

Forgetfulness is something that almost everyone experiences at some point in their life, whether it’s forgetting to pay a bill on time or simply forgetting where you put your keys. But as we get older, we can become anxious that our everyday forgetfulness might be something more. Knowing the difference between commonplace forgetfulness and memory loss that needs medical attention is a topic worth educating ourselves on.

While it’s not uncommon to occasionally forget a social engagement, or the name of a TV show, consistently struggling to remember certain events, occasions and names, and then forgetting the incident where you forgot, can be a sign of early onset dementia – whereas the occasional moment of forgetfulness shouldn’t be too concerning. MemoryLoss

If you find yourself failing to recall events that happened as recently as yesterday, but still recall childhood memories clearly, this can also be a sign that you should contact your doctor. It’s instances like this – where the memory loss is consistent and predictable, whether it be to yourself, or those around you –  that are more likely to be signs of dementia.

It is also common for people to misplace items, such as keys or cell phones; however, what is important here is to note where the item was misplaced. If it was simply put in an ordinary place, such as the side of a couch, or on the wrong bench top, this shouldn’t be a reason to worry. However, if it was placed in an unusual spot, such as the oven, or the washing basket, it may be reason to book in a chat with a professional.

Being told by family, friends, or colleagues that your memory or initiative isn’t what it once was can often be unpleasant, and even a cause for anxiety, however stressing about your memory will only make it worse – and that goes for everyone. If you really are concerned, it might be time to start reading up on the topic and assessing where you’re at.

If you are then concerned that you, or a loved one, is experiencing an increase in forgetfulness, it can pay to start by chatting with your local doctor, and putting in the necessary next steps and effort to help slow the impacts of dementia. You could start with filling in crosswords, or participating in family chores such as cooking and cleaning. Memory loss isn’t always a sign that you or a loved one is developing dementia, however it is always important to note any changes as you grow older and keep your mind as active as possible.

How to get help

If you or your loved one do receive a diagnosis of dementia, there is plenty of support available.

In the Auckland region alone, more than 15,000 people are living with dementia. Alzheimers Auckland is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to providing dementia support services and inspiring those living with dementia to make the most of life. They believe that with the right support programmes, improved environments, and connection to community, people affected by dementia can continue to make the most of each moment.

Alzheimers Auckland is one of many local organisations across New Zealand that can help provide support, education, information and related services, directly to members of the community who are affected by dementia. These services may include education to assist with understanding and living with a dementia diagnosis; support for family, friends and whānau coping with the demands of caring; and support groups and socialisation groups for people affected by dementia. They can also advise you on the services available in your local community.

Visit for more information on services available near you.


About Dementia Auckland

Dementia Auckland is a not for profit organisation dedicated to providing dementia support services and inspiring those living with dementia to make the most of life. Dementia Auckland provides a wide range of services and support across the greater Auckland region. Dementia Key Workers offer intensive support and practical strategies for the carer of a person with dementia, including home visiting, telephone consultations, and support groups. Visit for more info.

One comment

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    Thank you for this very helpful information. It is good to know how to recognise the differce between the two.