Helpline
0344 324 6589
Monday – Friday 8am – 6pm

About Dementia

About Dementia

What is dementia?

As we get older, changes occur in all parts of our body, including our brain. As a result, some of us may notice that it takes longer to learn new things, have difficulty retaining new information, or occasionally mislay items like keys or glasses.

Many people worry that this type of forgetfulness might be the first sign of dementia.

However, there are other causes that can cause memory and confusion, such as; medical conditions, vitamin and mineral deficiencies (for example B12), delirium, urinary tract infections (UTI’s), and emotional problems like stress, anxiety, depression or grief.

Confusion and forgetfulness caused by medical and emotional problems are usually temporary, but if these symptoms last for more than a couple of weeks, it’s important to get help from a doctor to find out why you are feeling this way.

Untitled design

Dementia is a decline in memory or other thinking skills that impacts your daily life.

Dementia is not a disease itself. It is a range of symptoms that result from damage to the brain caused by diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Vascular dementia, and Lewy Body dementia, or one of the other 200 types of dementia.

According to the Department of Health there are more than 850,000 people in the UK who have dementia. One in 14 people over the age of 65 have dementia, and the condition affects 1 in 6 people over 80.

Dementia can also affect people under 65. This is known as young-onset dementia. There are currently more than 42,000 people living with young-onset dementia in the UK.

It is estimated that by 2025, the number of people with dementia in the UK will be more than 1 million.

Hampshire is one of the top 5 locations in the UK with the highest incident of dementia with 24,000 people living in Hampshire diagnosed with dementia in 2020. (ARUK)

Web images (6)

Types of dementia

In the initial stages of memory loss your GP may tell you that you have signs of “mild cognitive impairment” (MCI), this is when the symptoms are not severe enough to be diagnosed as dementia. For some people, these symptoms will not worsen. But some people with MCI will go on to develop dementia.

 

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia and is characterized by ‘plaque’ in the brain and ‘tangles’ within the cells, due to protein abnormalities. Plaques are clumps of a protein called beta-amyloid, and tangles are fibrous tangles made up of tau protein. It is thought that these clumps damage healthy neurons and the fibres connecting them. Early symptoms include memory, trouble finding the rights words, asking the same questions repetitively, finding it hard to make decisions, being less flexible or more hesitant than previously.

Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia. It is caused by damage to the vessels that supply blood to the brain. This can cause strokes, TIA’s (transient ischemic attack), or affect the brain in other ways, such as by damaging the fibres in the white matter of the brain. You may notice problems with thinking skills, such as focus and organisation or problem solving before any memory loss occurs.

Lewy Body dementia Lewy bodies are abnormal balloon like clumps of protein that have been found in the brains of people with Lewy body dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. This is one of the more common types of progressive dementia.

Common signs and symptoms include seeing things or hearing things that are not there (visual and audio hallucinations), and problems with focus and attention. Other signs may include uncoordinated or slow movement, tremors, and rigidity (this is known as Lewy Body with parkinsonism).

Parkinson’s disease affects mobility but is also linked to Lewy Body dementia and so may eventually have these symptoms on top of impaired mobility.

Frontotemporal dementia is a breakdown of the nerve cells and their connections in the brain that manages personality, behaviour, and language. This dementia affects personality, thinking, judgement, and language.

Huntington’s disease is caused by a genetic mutation; this disease causes some nerve cells in your brain and spinal cord to waste away. Signs and symptoms, including a severe decline in thinking skills, which can appear around age 30 or 40.

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is most often caused by repetitive head trauma. Boxers and football players might develop TBI because of repeated trauma to the head. Or someone that has been in a car crash.

Depending on the part of the brain that is injured, this condition can cause dementia signs and symptoms such as depression, explosiveness, memory loss and impaired speech. TBI may also cause parkinsonism, although symptoms might not appear until years after the trauma.

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is rare brain disorder which usually occurs in people without known risk factors. This condition might be due to deposits of infectious proteins called prions. Signs and symptoms of this condition usually appear after age 60.

Some people may be diagnosed with mixed dementia. This occurs when there are two or three types occurring together. For instance, a person may show signs of Alzheimer’s disease, vascular and Lewy Body dementia all at the same time.

Dementia is not a natural part of ageing. Therefore, it’s important to talk to your GP sooner rather than later if you are worried about memory problems or other symptoms.

Signs and symptoms of dementia

Whilst memory can be affected for many reasons, if you are becoming increasingly forgetful, and it is affecting your daily life, or you are worried about memory loss, it’s a good idea to talk to your GP.

Aside from memory loss and confusion dementia can result in a loss of interest in your usual activities and can cause problems managing your behaviour or emotions. You may also find social situations difficult and lose interest in relationships and socialising.

There are many different types of dementia, and they will each affect people differently. Symptoms include:

Web images (51)

Cognitive changes such as:

Psychological changes such as:

In the early days, before diagnosis you may find that those around you struggle to understand what you are saying is the truth – this is because if you have forgotten things or do not fully understand your environment or a situation, they may not understand the reasons for this. It’s important that you talk to your family and friends so that they can support you.

A time will come when you need more help from loved ones or friends in your daily living, and in making decisions, especially decisions regarding your finances or any life changing decisions, and it is essential that your Power of Attorney (POA) is in place with the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) by this time. You can read more about POA by clicking on the Financial Planning button at the bottom of the page.

Symptoms of dementia usually become worse over time and in the late stage of dementia, you will likely need more help to take care of yourself.

Everyone’s journey is different and people’s symptoms progress at different rates so it is difficult to say when you will need support, but when you do, please get in touch with us as we can help by providing emotional support, information, and signposting for the whole family.

Below is a video made by Alzheimer’s Research UK which you may find useful.

SIGN UP TO OUR E-NEWSLETTER

And get news, stories and events straight to your inbox!