Your Partner in Ageing


Telling the difference between dementia and age-related memory loss

Uploaded On: 09 Sep 2021

People can experience memory loss or memory distortion at any age. Some of these may become more pronounced with age.

Dementia and age-related memory loss are vastly different. Unlike natural memory loss, dementia often causes a significant decline in cognitive function, affecting a person’s ability to think, reason, and remember. As such, people who have been diagnosed with dementia require treatment that may involve counselling and medication, as well as dedicated care.

With the desire to provide proper treatment and care to an elderly experiencing problems with memory, a common question asked is: How do I know the difference between forgetfulness and dementia?

Normal age-related memory loss

Natural, age-related memory loss involves an occasional lapse in being able to recall certain information or events. People who are forgetful because of age usually experience the following, which are generally not a cause for alarm and do not point to dementia:

Tendency to forget placement of items such as handphone, spectacles, or keys
Occasionally unable to find the right word to use in a sentence, or feeling like a piece of information is just at the tip of your tongue but you are unable to recall
Becoming distracted occasionally, forgetting what was just mentioned in a conversation or what you have just read
Sometimes missing an appointment or forgetting the date


Dementia symptoms are serious and disruptive to a person’s life – unlike with age-related memory loss that is, at worse, mildly frustrating from time to time.

One in 20 people in Singapore experience dementia after the age of 60. For them, dementia can cause them to ask the same questions over and over, rely heavily on memory aids, and even forget important people in their lives. Other early signs of dementia include:

  • Have trouble carrying out simple or familiar tasks such as dressing up, paying the bills, and taking a bath
  • Confused about time and space such as losing track of time, forgetting where they are, or not knowing the way home from a familiar place
  • Often struggle with using the right words, confusing different words, or repeating the same phrases in a sentence
  • Have difficulty following a conversation
  • Placing items in random places, such as putting the keys in the fridge, or cutlery on the bookshelf
  • Changes in mood and personality. A person with dementia can experience a lot of stress, frustration, confusion, fear and anxiety. This often causes them to be easily upset with loved ones, and especially when faced with unfamiliar situations.

What should I do if I identify dementia symptoms?

Should you notice an elderly or anyone you know is experiencing one or more of the signs of dementia, encourage them to consult a doctor as early as possible. Early detection will allow your elderly loved one to receive proper care and support – from family or by a professional staff at a nursing home in Singapore.

Nursing homes in Singapore provide special elderly care services for dementia patients that can improve their quality of life and well-being in the long run.

Orange Valley Nursing Home offers various support options such as respite care, allowing caregivers time to rest whilst offering comfort and assurance. Other options include long-term nursing home, specialised dementia care programmes and home care services can also be arranged. Reach out to us to find out more about our dementia care services here.