Dementia

What is dementia?
Dementia is a common condition that affects about 800,000 people in the UK. Your risk of developing dementia increases as you get older, and the condition usually occurs in people over the age of 65.

Dementia is a syndrome (a group of related symptoms) associated with an ongoing decline of the brain and its abilities. This includes problems with:












People with dementia can become apathetic or uninterested in their usual activities, and have problems controlling their emotions. They may also find social situations challenging, lose interest in socialising, and aspects of their personality may change.

A person with dementia may lose empathy (understanding and compassion), they may see or hear things that other people do not (hallucinations), or they may make false claims or statements.

As dementia affects a person's mental abilities, they may find planning and organising difficult.Maintaining their independence may also become a problem. A person with dementia will therefore usually need help from friends or relatives, including help with decision making.

Your GP will discuss the possible causes of memory loss with you, including dementia. Other symptoms can include:











Most types of dementia can't be cured, but if it is detected early there are ways you can slow it down and maintain mental function.


Symptoms of dementia
Dementia is not a disease but a collection of symptoms that result from damage to the brain. These symptoms can be caused by a number of conditions. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer's disease.

Common symptoms of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia include:


Early symptoms of dementia are often mild and may get worse only very gradually. This means that the person with dementia and those around them may not notice these signs or take them seriously for some time. Also, people with dementia sometimes do not recognise that they have any symptoms.

Dementia is progressive. This means that the person's brain will become more damaged and will work less well over time, and their symptoms will tend to change and become more severe.

For this reason, it is important to talk to your GP sooner rather than later if you are worried that you may have problems with your memory.
The speed at which symptoms get worse and the way that they develop will depend on the cause of the person's dementia, their overall health and their circumstances. This means that the symptoms and experience of dementia can vary greatly from person to person.

Some people may also have more than one condition – for example, they may have Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia at the same time.
The symptoms listed above are common in all forms of dementia. However, some types of dementia have other distinctive features. These are explained below.

 

Symptoms in the later stages of dementia


As dementia progresses, memory loss and difficulties with communication often become very severe. In the later stages, the person is likely to neglect their own health and require constant care and attention.


Memory symptoms in dementia
People with advanced dementia may not recognise close family and friends, they may not remember where they live or know where they are. They may find it impossible to understand simple pieces of information, carry out basic tasks or follow instructions.

Communication problems in dementia
It is common for people with dementia to have increasing difficulty speaking and they may eventually lose the ability to speak altogether. It is important to keep trying to communicate with them and to recognise and use other, non-verbal means of communication, such as expression, touch and gestures.


Problems with mobility in dementia
Many people with dementia gradually become less able to move about unaided and may appear increasingly clumsy when carrying out everyday tasks. Some people may eventually be unable to walk and may become bedbound.

Incontinence
Bladder incontinence is common in the later stages of dementia and some people will also experience bowel incontinence.

Eating, appetite and weight loss
Loss of appetite and weight loss are common in the later stages of dementia. It's important that people with dementia get help at mealtimes to ensure they eat enough. Many people have trouble eating or swallowing and this can lead to choking, chest infections and other problems