Health Professional Guide to Memory Loss

Text Size: Normal / Medium / Large
Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version


Health Professional Guide to Memory Loss

Not a clinician? Click here for the public content about Memory Loss


Testing Signs and Symptoms of Memory Loss

If your patient complains of any of the following, the first step is to determine if the symptoms are part of normal aging, or if they represent an early sign of dementia.

  • Difficulty completing routine tasks
  • Language problems
  • Disorientation in time
  • Disorientation in space
  • Poor or impaired judgment
  • Problems with abstract thought
  • Problems with praxis
  • Mood or behaviour changes
  • Personality changes
  • Loss of motivation
  • Difficulty with activities of daily living
  • Neurological signs and symptoms
  • Deficits on neuropsychological testing


Signs and Symptoms

Examples of Normal Complaints

Examples of Abnormal Complaints

Difficulty completing routine tasks


Patient no longer knows how to use the washing machine

Language problems

Your patient forgets her landlord's name.

Patient has vague or incoherent speech.

Patient forgets words.

Patient repeats herself frequently.

Disorientation in time

Patient forgets an appointment.

Patient can’t remember if she locked door.

Patient occasionally forgets to take her medications.

Patient doesn’t know what day it is.

Patient forgets to turn off the stove.

Patient always needs to be reminded to take her medications.

Disorientation in space

Patient has problems finding her car in a large parking lot

Patient gets lost on the way home

Poor or impaired judgment.

Forgets to add an ingredient to a recipe

Patient doesn't pay the bills.

Patient leaves the house without her coat in winter.

Problems with abstract thought


Patient no longer knows how to play cards



Patient forgets how to tie her shoes

Mood or behaviour changes


Patient is more hot-tempered or quieter than usual.

Patient uses lots of profanities which she never did before.

Personality changes


Caregiver notes personality changes in patient

Patient lacks facial expressions

Loss of motivation


Patient is apathetic

Patient doesn't participate in conversations

Patient watches hours of television

Difficulties in daily living

Patient forgets phone numbers.

Patient forgets how to use utensils

***This complaint is not within normal aging


Signs and physical symptoms


  • Normal physical exam


  • Presence of frontal release signs
  • Gait disorder
  • Hallucinations (symptom)
  • Paranoia (symptom)
  • Localized neurological signs (brain tumors)

Neuropsychological test results

Normal results

  • MMSE > 24
  • Normal clock drawing test
  • MoCA 26

Abnormal result

  • MMSE ‹ 24
  • Abnormal clock test
  • MoCA ‹ 26

Next: Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE)


We are pleased to house this series of FAQs for health professionals, supervised by Cara Tannenbaum, from the Centre de recherche de l’Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal.

Browse Contents of the Health Professional Guide to Memory Loss:




Not a health care provider? Click here