Dementia Isn't Just a Memory Disease

The term “memory loss” is commonly used as a shorthand for dementia, especially in regard to Alzheimer’s disease where memory loss is a prominent feature. However, did you know that not all types of dementia include significant memory loss? Did you know some types of memory may remain more intact than others?

There are several types of dementia. Each has its own unique pattern of disabilities and abilities. Alzheimer’s disease is one type of dementia, and it is the most frequently diagnosed. However, there are a few other common types of dementia – as well as many rare ones – each with its distinctive characteristics and course.

Not all dementias involve memory loss. Alzheimer’s disease involves memory loss as an early, ongoing and distinctive feature. However, other types of dementia, such as frontotemporal dementia and many cases of vascular dementia, do not have this same prominent pattern of memory loss. Memory loss may never appear in some types of dementia, while in others it may be a later manifestation.

Not all forms of memory are impacted by dementia. There are several different forms of memory, and the brain stores and retrieves information differently depending on the type of memory used. Dementia impacts these various forms of memory in differing ways. For example, short-term memory loss is an early symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. In contrast, long-term memory relating to ages of approximately 8-20 years is much more durable in Alzheimer’s disease and can remain intact far into the disease. Memory for music, lyrics and dance steps lasts even longer and likely persists until, or close to, the end of life.

The DementiaWise® approach helps people with dementia access and use the types of memory that still remain. These best care practices help maintain and support their level of function, allowing them and their families to live their best life possible.