Forgets appointments and important tasks

  All Alzheimer's Symptoms

When it happens

Can begin at the earliest stage of dementia and progresses with increasing frequency until the person is no longer capable of making or keeping own appointments. It's normal to forget something occasionally and remember later; it's problematic when this happens repeatedly and disrupts everyday life.

Why it happens

The brain's working memory system is one of the first casualties of dementia. Working memory is a kind of short-term memory in which the brain holds a thought long enough to use or store the information in longer-term memory. Because the proper connections are no longer made in the brain, people forget that they've made an appointment -- or even that they've jotted down the time and place in a date book for later reference. Over time, episodes like these increase.

What you can do

  • Put memory prompts in place, such as date books by telephone and pads of paper for to-do lists. Know, however, that over time even these aids will be forgotten and go unused.

  • Try keeping a "memory board" (a chalkboard or whiteboard) in a prominent place. On it, write the day's date and any important events for the day. Casually review it together in the morning and refer to it through the day.

  • Act as a back-up memory system: Write down the appointments and tasks in your own planner and follow up to make sure they take place.

  • Offer to make the appointments yourself.

  • Don't berate the person for screwups or urge him or her to "try harder." He or she can't.