How dementia changes memory

February 9, 2021
September 7, 2022

Read a transcript of this video:

Dementia often affects memory, the complex system of information storage which guides behaviour and allows us to learn from previous experiences. When caring for someone with dementia, understanding how the disease affects the memory as it develops can help you to manage daily situations and know what to expect.

It is important to remember that everyone is unique, so not everyone with dementia will experience the same changes in memory. Different types of dementia also affect the brain in different ways, so memory might not change as much as other skills and abilities.

In the early stages of dementia, people often experience a change in their short-term memory – it can become harder to recall things they have learned or done in recent hours or days. This happens because the systems for attending to, processing and storing new information have become less efficient.

This can be distressing because memories are a way of anchoring us to time and place.

Long-term memory tends to be preserved for much longer because older memories are more established and have been accessed many times already.

This means the person with dementia may talk more about people or events in the past. At times, they may feel confused about where they are in the present.

There are also factors which can affect how well our memory works, such as mood, fatigue, illness, pain and stimulation level. This means memory might be worse than usual if, for example, the person with dementia has been to a busy family party or has been feeling under the weather.

Dementia Carers Count can help you to provide better care for people with memory problems and can offer useful advice for both you and the person you care for.

Memory changes
As dementia progresses, it affects people's ability to store and retrieve information as the memory becomes less efficient
The brain