What Is Dementia?
There are many misconceptions around the subject of dementia, including the different symptoms that a person might experience and that dementia is a normal and inevitable part of ageing.
So, what is dementia?
Dementia is the umbrella term for a group of symptoms or conditions which affect the brain. Each of these conditions causes brain cells to permanently stop working as they should, leading to difficulties with memory, speech, and cognition. It is a progressive condition, meaning that symptoms may be mild at first but get worse over time.
Who Gets Dementia?
As dementia is more common in older people, it can often be overlooked as a sign of ageing. However, if you or someone you know is experiencing memory difficulties or other changes in thinking, planning or judging skills, it’s important you seek help or guidance from a GP to determine the cause.
The likelihood of developing dementia increases significantly with age, and dementia mainly affecting people over the age of 65. However, that isn’t to say that you must be above this age to develop dementia. If you have any concerns about cognitive difficulties, then seek support.
There can be a number of contributing factors to developing dementia, such as medical conditions including high blood pressure, type two diabetes and high cholesterol, as well as lifestyle factors like smoking and drinking.
Alzheimers.org states, ‘Long-term research studies have demonstrated that high blood pressure in mid-life is a key factor that can increase your risk of developing dementia in later life, particularly vascular dementia.’
What Causes Dementia?
With dementia impacting so many people, in so many different ways, it can be difficult to fully understand the causes and implications of the disease process.
Simply put, dementia is caused when nerve cells in the brain, which carry messages to the different parts of the brain and the body, are irretrievably damaged. When this happens, the brain can no longer easily relay these messages.
The overarching term ‘dementia’ can be caused by many different diseases, and damage can affect different areas of the brain, which will impact on how a person is affected. There are over 200 subtypes of dementia, but 19 out of 20 people with dementia have one of four main types.
Types of Dementia
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Vascular dementia
- Dementia with Lewy bodies
- Frontotemporal dementia
What are the Effects of Dementia?
Depending on where the damage to the brain occurs will influence how a person is affected by the illness. Dementia can present itself in a variety of ways, particularly in the early stages where symptoms aren’t as obvious but get progressively worse.
Regardless of the type of dementia that an individual is diagnosed with, each person will experience their disease uniquely due to a number of factors, including previous base-line brain functioning and physical health.
Common early signs of dementia include, but are not limited to:
- Memory loss
- Difficulty concentrating
- Changes in language and communication
- Difficulty seeing or identifying what is within the direct environment
- Confusion about date and time
- Mood changes
- Difficulty controlling emotions
Ways to support a person with Dementia
Although there is currently no cure for dementia, constant learning and understanding the different diseases can help care providers to give the best possible support to those living with cognitive difficulties, such as dementia.
Ensuring a correct diagnosis is received allows the person with dementia to receive the best type of care and support, including adjusting the home environment; breaking tasks into smaller ‘chunks’, and using music or pets to ease anxiety and distress.
Medication is available to ease some of the symptoms of the disease, however it isn’t suitable for everyone, particularly as it can cause significant side effects for a person.
Support for People with Dementia
Seeking and receiving a diagnosis of dementia is an extremely challenging and emotional time for anyone, and it’s important to know that you are not alone. In the UK alone, it is estimated that around 850,000 people have dementia (NHS England).
There are many support groups throughout local communities, as well as helplines available to talk and support those living with dementia and the support system around them – such as Dementia UK.
Support for people with dementia can come in a variety of forms, whether it is receiving care from family or friends, private home care or, when a person can no longer remain at home, moving into a dementia care home.
If you are seeking the support of a dementia care home and would like to find out more information about homes near you, please use our easy find a care home function.