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Forgetfulness or Alzheimer’s: Why do We Forget Things?

image showing neurons with overlay of words alzheimers disease and dementia.
Samyak Lalit
Samyak Lalit | October 1, 2021 (Last update: October 1, 2021)

Samyak Lalit is an author and disability rights activist. He is a polio survivor and the founder of projects like Kavita Kosh, Gadya Kosh, TechWelkin, WeCapable, Dashamlav and Viklangta Dot Com. Website:

With growing age, people start worrying about probable diseases that may hamper their overall health. One such dreadful condition is Alzheimer’s disease (or dementia). Many older adults start worrying about Alzheimer’s as soon as they see signs like forgetfulness or other reduced cognitive abilities. Though forgetting things can be a warning sign of Alzheimer’s, it is not always the case. In this article, we are discussing the factors about normal forgetfulness and serious memory loss that may be a sign of Alzheimer’s (or dementia).

Why Do We Forget Things?

Most of us think that our memory is so bad and when the frequency of forgetting things increases we tend to get worried. But, it is important to understand that forgetting is normal. All of us forget things surprisingly fast. Researchers have found that the human brain forgets 56% of information within an hour of gaining it and continues to lose information gradually.

Forgetting is not only common but a very important phenomenon. It is as important as the removal of wastes from the body. You can see forgetting as a natural way of cleaning the brain to boost its speed and power. This is similar to the process of clearing cached memory from our devices to boost their speed and performance.

Shouldn’t We Worry About Our Memory Loss?

Though forgetting is part of every human life, the frequency of forgetting naturally increases as we grow old. And, this is the reason many a times devastating condition like dementia gets ignored as a normal aging problem. And, sometimes people start worrying too much. You need to know certain factors to strike the balance between ignoring signs of Dementia or Alzheimer’s and not over worrying about your forgetfulness.

The following signs may indicate that your or one of your loved one’s forgetfulness may be more than a mere aging problem.

Forgetting Commonly used Words

While forgetting things is normal; losing words of common use is not. If someone forgets to pay their credit card bill or a promise to show up at a certain time and place every now and then, it should not be a great issue. But, if someone starts forgetting names of things commonly used in their day-to-day life, it may be a warning sign. Losing track of what someone is talking about is pretty common when we are stressed or distracted by some other thought. But, if someone starts forgetting the talk they just had with someone then it may point towards a lurking Dementia or such cognitive issues in near future.

If you observe a loved one struggling to find words for common daily talks or repeating questions you just answered, you should be concerned. The loss of words may be so prominent that the person’s speech may get disrupted. Loss of speech, not due to an impairment but due to forgetting words is a very distinct sign of early stages of Alzheimer’s or Dementia.

Confused State of Mind due to Forgetfulness

Forgetfulness brought in by conditions like Dementia and Alzheimer’s brings confusion and significant behavioral changes. While a person facing age-related memory loss can forget to call back someone she is supposed to or may leave her wallet at the coffee shop. A person forgetting things due to Alzheimer’s may start forgetting things, like brushing her teeth or taking a shower, ingrained in her daily routine. Works like brushing teeth, taking a shower, etc. do not need to be remembered, we do things like this on autopilot mode. If a person starts forgetting things like this then it may be a possible sign of danger. The person may even start forgetting familiar roads or places including their own address.

What should be the Course of Action?

If your forgetfulness falls in the normal category, stop worrying and take a chill pill! You can indulge in memory and brain power-boosting activities like reading, learning new things, or challenging yourself with Sudoku and crossword puzzles. In fact, these activities can even slow down the normal aging speed of your brain.

And, if you feel the forgetfulness is crossing the normal boundary you need to get alert. Seeing a doctor and getting medical advice sooner is always better than later. You’ll be happy to know some of the seemingly symptoms of Alzheimer’s or Dementia may be caused due to treatable diseases like thyroid disorders. Even if it’s dementia or Alzheimer’s, it can be controlled in the initial phases. So, don’t delay consulting a doctor and getting medical advice from qualified professionals.

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