What is dementia?
Forgetting what you went to the shop for is one thing; forgetting how to get back home is another.
Everyone forgets things from time to time, and as we age it can become more apparent. As you get older you might find that you forget where you put your keys, or forget to get bread from the shop, or forget to record something on TV more often than when you were younger. This is normal age-related memory loss, it does not interfere with your daily life.
We can write things down to jog our memory, but if you find that you're forgetting that you have written something down, or if you're finding it more difficult to think straight, speak to people or do things, it may be worth looking through some information, particularly information that gives advice on how to reduce your risk of dementia.
You may come across the term 'mild cognitive impairment'. It's still not clear whether this is distinct from dementia or whether it's the very early stages of the condition. Either way, a person can continue to experience mild symptoms for a long time without change, and some studies have shown that it could be possible to reverse the symptoms of mild cognitive impairment.
If your memory problems become worse, or you're getting more confused
in conversations, or your moods, motivations, behaviours or mobility change, you might feel that it is affecting how you live your life or you might rely on people to help you manage your daily activities. You should discuss this with your GP. It's a good idea to visit your GP with someone who knows you well because they will be able to give their perspective on how you are coping.
You may find that you're referred to a clinician who will go through some tests and questions which is often called the Mini Mental State Examination. Your clinician will also take a note of your history and symptoms,
and may refer you for further tests such as a brain scan.
If your clinician gives you a diagnosis of dementia it is likely that this will be very distressing for you and for your friends and family. However an early diagnosis is important because it will give you an explanation and a reason for your symptoms as well as ruling out other conditions. It will also direct you to relevant and helpful information and support services,
allow you take medication to help manage the symptoms, and help you to discuss your symptoms and
make plans with your friends and family.
Dementia is not a normal part of ageing, it is also often misunderstood.
Dementia is an umbrella term that describes the variety of symptoms which are caused when the brain becomes damaged from disease or injury, and as a result brain cells die. As the cells die, the brain is less able to work properly and depending on which parts of your brain are affected you will experience the different symptoms of dementia. Symptoms become worse over time because dementia is progressive - brain cells continue to die, more areas of the brain are affected, and so you experience more symptoms.
If you receive a diagnosis of dementia, you will also be told what has, or is, causing it. Alzheimer's Disease is the most common form,
but there are others such as Vascular dementia, Dementia with Lewy Bodies, Frontotemporal dementia or mixed dementia.