What is Dementia?

Dementia is a not a diagnosis itself but a collection of related medical problems that result in memory loss, problems with reasoning and communication skills, and a reduction in a person's abilities and skills in carrying out daily activities.

There are lots of different causes of dementia, including Alzheimers Disease, Vascular Dementia (eg following strokes) and Lewy Body Disease. Some people have a mixture of causes that combine to give dementia. 

About 800,000 people in the UK have been diagnosed with dementia, though there are an unknown number of people with early symptoms that have not been diagnosed yet.

Dementia is gradually progressive, but the rate at which symptoms worsen varys from person to person; the degree that different symptoms present also varys.

What are the common symptoms?

Memory loss - this can be one of the first symptoms that people notice. The observations people report include - noticing their loved ones forgetting things that have happened earlier in the day, getting confused about messages and who people are, getting lost whilst out and about, repeating themselves, and appearing not to be paying attention or following conversations.

Problems with communication - Some people experience problems with expressing themselves, talking and understanding things. They get confused about words and might use the wrong words for common things and mix words up. Reading and understanding written text can become problematic.

Reducion in abilities - Many patients develop difficulties doing everyday activies, such as dressing, cooking, cleaning, doing the shopping.

I am concerned that I  or someone I know might have dementia - what should I do?

Make an appointment with a GP. You are welcome to bring someone with you to the appointment - in fact, coming with someone who knows you well can help us to make a diganosis.

In the first instance the GP will ask you some questions and do a screening test. In many instances, they will be able to reassure you. However, if there is still concern about the possibility of dementia they may examine you and take blood tests to rule out other conditions that make give similar symptoms but are reversible (for example, infections)

If treatable causes have been ruled out, your GP will probably refer you to a memory specialist.

What help is available?

Finding out that you or someone you know has dementia can be difficult.

Having support or someone to talk to can be very helpful. At the bottom of the page, we have listed some of the local and national support groups and services that you may wish to contact for support.

Support is also available for carers, these are detailed on our carer's page.

What about medicine?

Medicines can help slow the progression in some people. This is one of the reasons that your GP will ask a specialist for their advice.