Memory Loss in Alzheimers Disease

Memory loss occurs in all cases of Alzheimers, but in the early stages it can be difficult to detect as people manage to cover it up successfully. The most recent memories are the first to go, and it's only much later as the Alzheimers condition has become much more severe that the long term memory is affected.

The things we've done recently such as in the last hours days or even weeks are placed in our short term memory and it's this recent storage capacity that causes problems for people with Alzheimers.

Because memory loss is such an important feature of Alzheimers disease and can be checked using a simple test, it forms an important part of the assessment tool which is used to diagnose Alzheimers.

A common test which used to be used extensively was to ask the person suspected of having Alzheimers a series of questions. These covered both the short and the long term memory.

Ten questions commonly asked included:

  • How old are you?
  • What is your date of birth?
  • What day is it today?
  • What month are we in?
  • What year is it?
  • When was the first world war?
  • What is the name of the prime minister?
  • Where are you now?
  • Count backwards from 20-1?
  • Tell them an address, then ask them to repeat it back to you after five minutes.

If the person is co-operative and has been asked these questions in a pleasant way, not in an officious manner, this is quite an easy test to perform. It's also a useful test to help diagnose Alzheimers or dementia as it is quick, non invasive and cheap to use. It also gives a rough guide to the areas in the person's memory where there may be problems.

These questions test a person's short term and long term memory problems and they also test for orientation as well.

A low score on its own doesn't prove dementia or Alzheimers disease, because not all people will know all the answers to the questions anyway! It's just a guide to prove that something may be wrong and needs further investigation.

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