Dementia guide

About dementia

If you're becoming increasingly forgetful, particularly if you're over the age of 65, it may be a good idea to talk to your GP about the early signs of dementia.

As you get older, you may find that memory loss becomes a problem. It's normal for your memory to be affected by stress, tiredness, or certain illnesses and medications.

This can be annoying if it happens occasionally, but if it's affecting your daily life or is worrying you or someone you know, you should seek help from your GP.

But dementia isn't just about memory loss. It can also affect the way you speak, think, feel and behave.

It's also important to remember that dementia is not a natural part of ageing. 

How common is dementia?

According to the Alzheimer's Society there are around 850,000 people in the UK with dementia. One in 14 people over 65 will develop dementia, and the condition affects 1 in 6 people over 80.

The number of people with dementia is increasing because people are living longer. It is estimated that by 2025, the number of people with dementia in the UK will have increased to around 1 million.

What is 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.  

Alzheimer's disease is a type of dementia and, together with vascular dementia, makes up the vast majority of cases.

People with dementia can become apathetic or uninterested in their usual activities, or may have problems controlling their emotions.

They may also find social situations challenging and lose interest in socialising. Aspects of their personality may change.

A person with dementia may lose empathy (understanding and compassion), they may see or hear things that other people do not (hallucinations). 

Because people with dementia may lose the ability to remember events or fully understand their environment or situations, it can seem as if they're not telling the truth, or are wilfully ignoring problems.

As dementia affects a person's mental abilities, they may find planning and organising difficult. Maintaining their independence may also become a problem.

A person with dementia will therefore usually need help from friends or relatives, including help with decision making.

Read more about the symptoms of dementia.

Why is it important to get a diagnosis?

Although there is no cure for dementia at present, if it's diagnosed in the early stages, there are ways you can slow it down and maintain mental function.

A diagnosis can help people with dementia get the right treatment and support, and help those close to them to prepare and plan for the future.

With treatment and support, many people are able to lead active, fulfilled lives.

The symptoms of dementia tend to worsen with time. In the much later stages of dementia, people will be able to do far less for themselves and may lose much of their ability to communicate.

Read more about how dementia is diagnosed, or find out more about:

Page last reviewed: 15/06/2017

Next review due: 15/06/2019

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