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Making Memory Problems a Priority

Learning About Memory Problems

This article is for people who are living with the early symptoms of Alzheimer's disease and/or memory problems and their care partners, or anyone who wants to learn more about changes in memory. The goal of this activity is to help you take the lead and proactively talk to and work with your doctor and healthcare team about potential memory problems.

You will learn about:

  • Alzheimer's disease and its symptoms

  • The stages of Alzheimer's and how it can progress

  • Why bringing up memory problems early is important

  • Talking to your doctor and healthcare team about memory and cognition (how you think)

  • Questions you can ask

Test Your Knowledge

What Is Alzheimer's Disease?

Alzheimer's disease is a condition that affects the parts of the brain that control memory, thought, and language.

With Alzheimer's, certain brain proteins don't work like they should and clump together to form deposits called amyloid plaques. This causes damage and results in changes in your memory and cognition (how you think) that can affect your ability to function and do everyday tasks.

Alzheimer's Disease Can Progress

Alzheimer's disease can get worse over time. Damage typically starts in the part of the brain that controls memory, often years before symptoms appear. But as Alzheimer's progresses, many other areas of the brain can become damaged as well.

Early symptoms of Alzheimer's often include memory problems like forgetting recent events or conversations. And early on, you may realize you're having trouble remembering and thinking clearly.

But over time, serious memory problems and being unable to do daily tasks can happen. As symptoms get worse, a family member or friend may be the one more likely to notice changes.

Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a condition that some people may develop that can be an early sign of Alzheimer's disease.

With MCI, problems with memory or cognition are greater than usual for your age, but you're still able to function, do normal daily activities, and take care of yourself.

Problems can include:

  • Frequently losing things

  • Forgetting to go to appointments or events

  • Trouble communicating or finding words

Stages of Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's disease and its symptoms typically happen in 4 stages:

  • Preclinical where changes in your brain start happening several years before problems with memory and thinking appear

  • Mild (early-stage) when Alzheimer's disease is typically first diagnosed or found

  • Moderate where Alzheimer's progresses and you may need more care and supervision

  • Severe (late-stage) where you may not be able to communicate and will likely need to depend on others for care

Symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease

Symptoms of Alzheimer's disease can be different for different people.

In addition to memory loss, symptoms can include:

  • Losing track of dates or forgetting important events

  • Forgetting your location, getting lost, or wandering

  • Difficulty solving problems or working with numbers

  • Trouble planning or following a plan

  • Problems communicating, writing words, or speaking

  • Forgetting recent information or repeating the same question

  • Trouble doing or finishing familiar or daily tasks

  • Frequently misplacing things and being unable to retrace your steps to find them

  • Poor judgment and making bad decisions

  • Loss of motivation

  • Mood and personality changes, such as anxiety or aggression

Memory Problems May Not Be "Just Getting Older"

Some changes in memory and cognition can be common and happen naturally as you get older. Being slower to find words and recall names, trouble doing more than 1 task at a time, and problems paying attention can all happen. For many, mild forgetfulness can be a normal part of aging.

But it's important to know that memory problems can also be a symptom of Alzheimer's disease and memory loss is a key symptom. When memory loss interferes with your functioning or daily life, it's not a typical part of aging or "just getting older."

Bringing Up Problems Early Is Important

If you or someone close to you is having trouble remembering recent events or thinking clearly, don't wait to bring it up with a doctor or healthcare team member. Letting them know about any changes or problems as soon as possible is important.

Getting a timely, accurate diagnosis for Alzheimer's disease can be key to getting proper care and treatment. So at the first sign of changes in memory or thinking, talk to your doctor or healthcare team member. Being diagnosed too late may affect treatment.

Talking With Your Doctor and Healthcare Team

When it comes to problems with memory and cognition, don't hesitate to ask questions. There are differences between changes that may be a normal part of aging and those that could be an early symptom of Alzheimer's disease.

So talking to your doctor or healthcare team member early on is important. They can help find the cause of any problems. Keeping a journal or diary where you track and record memory or cognition problems or changes and write down any questions can be helpful for when you talk.

This educational activity is a simulated scenario, and the care partner depicted is fictitious. No association with any actual care partner, whether living or deceased, is intended or should be inferred.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor and Healthcare Team

Questions you can ask about potential memory and cognition problems can include:

  • How will I know if I'm having changes in my memory or cognition?

  • What can mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or Alzheimer's disease symptoms look like?

  • How soon should I contact you if I'm having memory or cognition problems?

  • Are there any tests or exams I should have?

  • Are there other healthcare team members I should see?

  • What tips you can give me to help with my memory and cognition?

  • Are there ways to help me talk to my family and friends about my memory and cognition?

  • What can I do if I start to feel stressed or depressed?

  • Where can I find more information and resources?

Test Your Knowledge

Survey Questions


You have successfully completed the program Making Memory Problems a Priority.

View Additional Materials on this topic that you may find useful:

What Is Alzheimer's Disease?

10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer's

Alzheimer's Disease Fact Sheet

When to Talk to Your Doctor About Memory Loss

Recognizing Symptoms and Seeking Help

Authors and Disclosures

Clinician Reviewer

Pakinam Aboulsaoud, PharmD

Senior Medical Education Director, Medscape, LLC. Pakinam Aboulsaoud, PharmD, has no relevant financial relationships. 


Anita A. Galdieri, PharmD, RPh

Associate Director, Content Development, Medscape, LLC. Anita A. Galdieri, PharmD, RPh has no relevant financial relationships.


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