Differentiating between memory loss and dementia

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Memory loss is a normal part of aging, however, at a certain point, memory loss can be an indicator of the onset dementia.

Mild cognitive impairment is the middle ground between normal aging memory loss and dementia.  Most patients with mild cognitive impairment have abnormal memory loss, but maintain the ability to function in everyday life. These patients are at higher risk for developing dementia.

If an individual is experiencing memory loss, it is important for them to discuss it with their doctor, as they may be a candidate for a neuropsychological assessment. During a neuropsychological assessment aimed at distinguishing between normal memory loss due to aging and developing dementia, a neuropsychologist first has an in-depth interview with the patient, covering everything from their medical history to their education level. The assessment then involves a battery of tests measuring factors such as attention, concentration, reasoning, memory and language. Results of the tests and interview are then compared with a scale of normal memory loss for the patient’s age group and education level.

Memory loss and dementia can be caused by a number of factors, including stress, depression and neurological (brain) conditions. Neuropsychologists work with doctors, most commonly neurologists, to make a conclusive diagnosis of dementia or rule out the disease, and get patients on the right path toward treatment.

Cone Health Neurorehabilitation Center has a dedicated neuropsychologist who specializes in assessments for mild cognitive impairment and dementia and an exceptional team of rehabilitation specialists dedicated to providing exceptional treatment to patients with neurological disorders throughout the community.

Spokesperson Background:

Dr. Michael Zelson is a neuropsychologist at Cone Health Neurorehabilitation Center. Dr. Zelson received a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1982, and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology from the University of Delaware in 1985. He earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Delaware in 1989. Dr. Zelson is an affiliate of the National Academy of Neuropsychology.

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