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MAY 13/2016

What is Dementia?

Dementia - dictionary definition

Dementia is not a normal part of ageing. It is an umbrella term used to describe a range of symptoms which occur when a person’s brain is damaged by disease. Over 100 diseases can cause dementia; with Alzheimer’s disease being the most common, causing two thirds of all cases of the condition. Other forms of dementia include vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies and frontotemporal dementia (Pick’s disease).

Who does it affect?

With 850,000 people currently living with dementia in the UK, the condition is set to affect a million people by 2025 and two million people by 2050.

Dementia commonly occurs in people aged 65 years and over. One in fourteen people in this age range suffer from the condition. The risk of developing dementia increases with age as one in six people over the age of 80 are more likely to get the condition. 

The condition also affects younger people. In the UK at least 40,000 people live with early-onset or young-onset dementia.

The condition is more common in women than men. According to Alzheimer’s Society, 61 per cent of people with dementia are women and 39 per cent are men. Women have a higher likelihood of developing dementia because they live longer than men.

Common symptoms

The most common symptom of dementia is memory loss. Other symptoms can include difficulties with:

  • Planning
  • Language 
  • Solving problems
  • Sleeping
  • Judging distances
  • Communication.

Individuals can experience changes in their mood and behaviour. Some people experience confusion, delusions and hallucinations. However, each person’s experience will be different as the symptoms will depend on the specific cause of their dementia. 


According to the Department of Health, only 59 per cent of people with dementia in England have a formal diagnosis. 

The symptoms don’t develop at a set speed or in the same order, and every person’s experience is different. There are sadly no treatments available to cure the condition, but there are medications and exercises that people can implement to manage their condition. It is recommended that individuals have a positive attitude, get involved in group activities, keep stress to a minimum and continue to lead an active lifestyle. Getting the right treatment and support can help many people living with the condition to continue enjoying fulfilling lives.  

Impact on loved ones

The condition is progressive, so the symptoms will gradually get worse over time. Individuals may need more support to help them with daily tasks, enabling them to continue enjoying their favourite activities. At present, there are approximately 700,000 informal carers taking care of their loved ones, and this figure is due to rise to nearly 1.7 million by 2050. 

With such a high number of informal carers whose lives will also be affected, there may come a time when additional help may be required. Individuals can speak to their health professionals or social work team to access an assessment. 

Support may be available with everyday tasks and practical help around the home, and will be noted in their care plan. The support would be delivered as part of a wider care package, and is dependent on the local authority. Authorities have contracts with providers of homecare services, such as Medacs Healthcare, who help people to live independently in their own homes.

Do you know someone who has been affected by dementia? Find out more about the condition and join us to raise awareness this Dementia Awareness Week. You can also check out our careers in care by clicking here.

Read our other articles on dementia and care:

Sources: Alzheimer’s Society, Dementia Consortium, Alzheimer’s Research UK, NHS Choices

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