Dementia is not a specific disease. It's an overall term that describes a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person's ability to perform everyday activities. Alzheimer's disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of cases. Vascular dementia, which occurs after a stroke, is the second most common dementia type. But there are many other conditions that can cause symptoms of dementia, including some that are reversible, such as thyroid problems and vitamin deficiencies.
Dementia is often incorrectly referred to as "senility" or "senile dementia," which reflects the formerly widespread but incorrect belief that serious mental decline is a normal part of aging.
Learn more: Common Types of Dementia, What is Alzheimer's?
Memory loss and other symptoms of dementia
Many people have memory loss issues — this does not mean they have Alzheimer's or another dementiaThere are many different causes of memory problems. If you or a loved one is experiencing troubling symptoms, visit a doctor to learn the reason. Some causes of dementia-like symptoms can be reversed.
Learn more: Visiting Your Doctor
While symptoms of dementia can vary greatly, at least two of the following core mental functions must be significantly impaired to be considered dementia:
- Communication and language
- Ability to focus and pay attention
- Reasoning and judgment
- Visual perception
People with dementia may have problems with short-term memory, keeping track of a purse or wallet, paying bills, planning and preparing meals, remembering appointments or traveling out of the neighborhood.
Many dementias are progressive, meaning symptoms start out slowly and gradually get worse. If you or a loved one is experiencing memory difficulties or other changes in thinking skills, don't ignore them. See a doctor soon to determine the cause. Professional evaluation may detect a treatable condition. And even if symptoms suggest dementia, early diagnosis allows a person to get the maximum benefit from available treatments and provides an opportunity to volunteer for clinical trials or studies. It also provides time to plan for the future.
Learn more: 10 Warning Signs, 7 Stages of Alzheimer's
- A free eBook and app of practical information for anyone caring for a person with dementia
- A film that looks at the experience of dementia amongst African Caribbean families
eBook and App
HEE’s team working across Thames Valley, in collaboration with local healthcare professionals, educators and carers, has developed a free eBook and app called The Dementia Guide for Carers and Care Providers. This provides practical information for anyone caring for a person with dementia and is broken down into six sections:
- understanding dementia – what it is, its symptoms and treatment
- day-to-day living – looking after the person with dementia, yourself and your family
- support – people and organisations who can help
- legal and money – advice and sources of help
- symptoms and behaviours – a look-up guide
- medical terms – definitions of medical terms and abbreviations which medical professionals may use.
The guide is available for from iBooks, the Kindle Store and Smashwords or as an app via the Apple App Store.
Supporting the aims of the ‘Prime Ministers Challenge on Dementia 2020’, HEE have been working with experts from across the system to develop ‘Finding Patience’, a film that looks at the experience of dementia amongst African Caribbean families. Understanding the cultural heritage of individuals living with dementia, enables high- quality, safe, person-centred care; this focuses on the individual rather than the disease, and an understanding of challenges that may be rooted in a person’s cultural background.
Aligning to tier 1 dementia awareness training, ‘Finding Patience’ opens the door for health and care professionals to start talking about cultural sensitivities that may result in a reluctance to come forward and talk about concerns. It aims to encourage health and care professionals to break down barriers in order to reach people who may otherwise go undiagnosed or struggle in isolation to provide care within family units.
(Direct video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7zJL8nPqFg&feature=youtu.be )