What is dementia?

    What is dementia?

    Dementia is an umbrella term describing a group of symptoms which primarily affect cognition (thinking abilities such as memory, problem solving and word-finding). Other symptoms may include confusion, disorientation, personality or mood changes, and visual perceptual changes.

    What causes dementia?

    Dementia has many causes. The most frequent known cause is Alzheimer’s, followed by Vascular Dementia, Picks Disease, Lewy Body disease,
    Parkinson’s, Frontal Temporal Dementia and some types of stroke. There are about 100 other known causes of dementia. For many people, the cause is never known.

    You can reduce your chances of getting dementia by keeping fit, having a healthy diet, staying socially connected and having good mental well-
    being. The public health campaign message is that the same actions that support a healthy heart will also support a healthy brain.

    Is there a cure?

    Unfortunately, at present, there is no cure for dementia. However, there is a great deal of evidence that a person can live well with dementia, despite the challenges it presents. Some medications (pharmacological treatments) have a role to play. There is increasing evidence that non-pharmacological interventions and psycho-social approaches, which support a person’s psychological and social well being, can play an even larger role. See our Living well page for information on some of these.

    The lived experience

    Understanding the lived experience of dementia is the key to effectively supporting the person through the dementia journey.

    A growing number of people affected by dementia are writing about their experiences.

    Some have dementia and others are caring for people with dementia.

    The following is just a small selection: Martha Stettinius, whose mother had severe dementia, writes about the controversial area of end of life care for people with dementia. She proposes specific advanced directives to guide caregivers and ensure that the person’s wishes when nearing the end of their dementia journey are understood and met. www.insidedementia.com/blog

    Valerie Blumenthal gives an illuminating insight into life with Posterior cortical atrophy (PCA), an unusual type of Alzheimer’s. In her blog, entitled I Am Still Me, Valerie Blumenthall comments: “What I would like, is to see is more Awareness, and less Prejudice. And always openness. There’s no shame, in having Alzheimer’s.” If you want to read more of Valerie’s posts, see her blog at http://wisewordslostforwords.wordpress.com