Prof. Eli Mizrahi, an expert in geriatrics and psychogeriatrics, from the Faculty of Medicine at Tel Aviv University, explains that memory disorders include two types of disorders. The first type is a benign disorder, known as a ‘remembering’ disorder, in which the information is present in the brain but difficult to retrieve due to the slowing of nerve transmission as we age. About one or two percent of those who suffer from this disorder will develop dementia later in life.
The second type is a mild memory disorder, known as “Age Associated Memory Impairment” in its medical name. This type of memory disorder indicates a decrease in short-term memory and can lead to changes in brain tissue similar to those seen in people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. About 12% of those who experience this mild memory disorder will develop dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Prof. Mizrahi explains the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s, noting that dementia is a decline in mental capacity affecting day-to-day functioning. Alzheimer’s disease is the cause of about 60% of all dementia cases and initially affects higher functions, such as the ability to drive and make decisions, and later progresses to impairing basic actions such as bathing and eating.
According to Prof. Mizrahi, Joe Biden’s forgetfulness during press conferences does not conclusively indicate a cognitive problem, but there is room for concern based on his confusion with names and topics that the president would be expected to master. This type of forgetfulness can be a red flag for a cognitive decline, similar to what was observed in President Reagan, who also suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. Prof. Mizrahi suggests that further assessment based on Biden’s day-to-day cognitive functioning and feedback from his family and staff is necessary to make a proper evaluation.