Memory Disorders

Family members with memory disorders may experience sundowning symptoms and display behaviors such as putting their shoe in microwave oven thinking it's their closet.
Family members with memory disorders may experience sundowning symptoms and display behaviors such as putting their shoe in microwave oven thinking it’s their closet.

Dissociative disorder is a Memory Disorder

Dissociative Disorder Involves Memory Loss

     Dissociative disorder is a type of memory loss disorder that develops due to trauma rather than a disease. With dissociative disorder, the person unconsciously escapes from reality by disconnecting their thoughts, identity, consciousness, or memories from what is real to what is not real.  It can happen at any age to anyone suffering from a traumatic event such as abuse or military combat. The “escape” provides them with a way of handling an emotionally difficult situation that they otherwise cannot control. As the situation becomes worse, so do their symptoms.


     Treatment requires psychotherapy and medication usually and can be difficult to achieve a successful outcome.  Signs and symptoms include:

  • Significant memory loss of specific times, people, and events
  • Out-of-body experiences, such as feeling as though you are watching a movie of yourself
  • Mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide
  • A sense of detachment from your emotions or emotional numbness
  • A lack of a sense of self-identity
Three Types of Dissociative Disorders

There are three types of dissociative disorders – dissociative amnesia, depersonalization disorder, and dissociative identity disorder.


Resource information for Dissociative Disorders found at

“Dementia” Covers Multiple Memory Disorders

What are Memory Disorders and What is Dementia?

     Dementia is the broad term incorporating diseases and conditions associated with memory disorders demonstrating a decline in either short or long-term memory, language, problem-solving abilities, and thinking that affects a person’s ability to carry out everyday activities. Abnormal brain activities trigger responses that result in impaired cognitive (thinking) abilities. Dementia may affect behavior, feelings, and relationships.

     Many people think that Dementia and senility are the same things, but they are not. Senility is the normal physical and mental decline associated with getting older. It’s a normal part of life and not due to abnormal brain function, whereas Dementia is a brain malfunction. However, it’s easy to confuse the two because they appear very similar.

What are the signs of dementia?

  • Short-term memory loss
  • Difficulty paying bills or forgetting to do so
  • Unable to plan and prepare meals
  • Failure to remember appointments
  • Becomes lost if they travel out of the neighborhood into unfamiliar territory

Note:  Symptoms are progressive.  They begin as a minor annoyance and become progressively worse over time until they cannot function independently.

How does Alzheimer’s relate to Dementia?

     Alzheimer’s is a form of Dementia that is caused by brain cell death. The primary characteristics of Alzheimer’s revolve around issues of memory loss, unclear thinking, and changes in behavior.  Symptoms develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily activities. There is no cure, but treatment is available for symptom relief and quality of life.

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of Dementia

Alzheimer’s accounts for 60-80% of all Dementia cases. Alzheimer’s progresses more quickly than other Dementia conditions. For example, in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, memory loss is mild. With late-stage Alzheimer’s, individuals lose the ability to carry on a conversation or respond to their environment. On average, a person with Alzheimer’s lives four to eight years after diagnosis. However, in some cases, individuals live for as long as 20 years. Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States.

10 Early Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia

If you identify any of the following warning signs, seeks medical advice for possible treatment options. 

  1. Forgetting recently learned information, important dates, and events, asking the same question repetitively.
  2. Increasing difficulty with following a plan, problem-solving, completing a sequential task to conclusion.
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks, driving to familiar locations, remembering rules of a familiar game.
  4. Confusion with the concept of the passage of time or recognizing place (i.e., keeping track of the date, season, the holiday).
  5. The trouble with visual images and spatial relationships is judging distance and determining color contrast causing issues with driving and other functions where contrast and depth perception is needed.
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing, such as having trouble following a conversation. May repeat what has been said by someone else as new information; believes new information they bring is new to everyone. Uses the wrong word for objects.
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps. Forgets what they did with things and accuses someone of stealing them.
  8. Decreased or poor judgment taking risks where they shouldn’t.
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities due to difficulty in holding conversations.
  10. Changes in mood and personal such as confusion, suspicion, depression, fearfulness, or anxiety, are common.

Behavior Changes with Alzheimer Progression

     As the condition progresses, you may also see personality and behavior changes—some of which may be difficult to accept. Remember, your loved one cannot control what is happening to them and would not take on the negative behaviors they may now display if they could stop themselves. With Alzheimer’s, the personality changes are due to impairments in brain function changes—like an amputation.  Once the part is gone, it doesn’t grow back.  The same is true currently for Alzheimer’s.  Once the part of the brain affected by Alzheimer’s dies, that functionality ceases.  Other parts of the brain attempt to compensate, but it may not work the same. Therefore, try to see the personality changes of your family member through the eyes of grace.


     Behaviors you might see with Alzheimer’s:

  • Becoming upset, worried, angry, or suspicious very easily
  • Acting depressed, sad, or uninterested in anything
  • Hiding things or believing other people hid things from them
  • Imaging that they see things that are not there
  • Wandering away from where they are supposed to be
  • Pacing a lot
  • Showing unusual sexual behavior
  • Hitting you or other people
  • Misunderstanding what they see, hear, or read
  • Stops caring about their appearance and hygiene

Resource information for Alzheimer’s and Dementia


Caregiver supporting family member who has mental health challenges related to memory loss and depression.

Dementia CareBlazers Video

5 Tips for Talking to Your Loved One with Dementia

Dementia CareBlazers Video

How to Respond to Delusions in Dementia

Dementia CareBlazers Video

3 things to Never do with your loved one with Dementia