Dementia

Dementia

Dementia is a syndrome (a group of related symptoms) associated with an ongoing decline of brain functioning. This may include problems with:

  • Memory loss
  • Thinking speed
  • Mental sharpness and quickness 
  • Language
  • Understanding
  • Judgement
  • Mood 
  • Movement
  • Difficulties carrying out daily activities

There are many different causes of dementia. People often get confused about the difference between Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.  

Causes of dementia

  • Alzheimer’s disease – This is the most common cause of dementia. In Alzheimer’s disease, an abnormal protein surrounds brain cells and another protein damages their internal structure
  • Vascular dementia – If the oxygen supply to the brain is reduced because of narrowing or blockage of blood vessels, some brain cells become damaged or die. This is what happens in vascular dementia.
  • Mixed dementia – This is when someone has more than one type of dementia, and a mixture of the symptoms of those types. It is common for someone to have both Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia together.
  • Dementia with Lewy bodies – This type of dementia involves tiny abnormal structures (Lewy bodies) forming inside brain cells. They disrupt the chemistry of the brain and lead to the death of brain cells.
  • Frontotemporal dementia (including Pick’s disease) – In frontotemporal dementia, the front and side parts of the brain are damaged. Clumps of abnormal proteins form inside brain cells, causing them to die.

Treatments for dementia

The vast majority of causes of dementia cannot be cured, although research is continuing into developing drugs, vaccines and other medical treatments. Here we outline large number of treatments that can be done to enable someone with dementia to live well.

Non-drug treatments and support

There are a range of non-drug treatments available that can help someone to live well with dementia. These include information, advice, support, therapies and activities. Support for the person and their carer should be available after a diagnosis.:

  • Talking therapies, such as counselling, can help someone come to terms with their diagnosis or discuss their feelings.
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) may be offered if the person develops depression or anxiety.
  • Cognitive stimulation therapy is a popular way to help keep someone’s mind active. It involves doing themed activity sessions over several weeks.
  • Other popular activities include music, singing or art. It is vital that people with dementia stay as active as they can – physically, mentally and socially.