What is Dementia?

Dementia is a progressive condition caused by a wide variety of diseases. Dementia can be described as a collection of symptoms which effect the brain and impact upon a person’s thinking, behaviour, movement and social functioning.

There are several common types of dementia which are associated with specific brain changes. This includes:

  1. Alzheimer’s disease which is the most common form of dementia occurring in 50-60% people with dementia. Alzheimer’s disease causes the brain to atrophy (shrink) and this process can commence 10-15 years before symptoms develop. Alzheimer’s disease also results in damage to the nerve cells in the brain. Common early onset symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are short term memory loss and the difficulty with forming new memories.
  2. Lewy Bodies Dementia is another form of dementia that can be difficult to initially diagnose as it is often interpreted as Parkinson’s disease. This type of dementia results because of the formation of ‘lewy bodies’ in the brain which initially cause movement difficulties and effect a person’s ability to interpret visual information such as judging distances.
  3. Vascular dementia results when blood flow to the brain is blocked. This blockage is often the result of medical events such as stoke or heart related events. Vascular dementia typically effects a person’s short-term memory, spacial awareness, and their ability to plan and reason.
  4. Frontotemporal lobe dementia can be a very distressing form of dementia for families. The onset for this type of dementia can be at a younger age and often results in personality and behavioural changes including a lack of awareness in regard to a person’s actions.

Dementia does not discriminate and can affect anyone, however, is more common in people over the age of 65. Research has identified some additional risk factors which can increase a person’s dementia risk including:

  • Health concerns such as high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, midlife obesity and hypertension and head injury
  • History of depression
  • Lifestyle factors such as smoking and an inactive lifestyle

People with dementia often experience psychological and behavioural symptoms associated with the disease. This may include:

  • Responsive behaviours such as wandering, physical aggression, verbal aggression and repetitive behaviours.
  • Hallucinations or delusion.
  • Individuals with dementia are also more likely to suffer from mental health concerns such as depression and anxiety.

You can find more information about dementia at Dementia Australia’s website. Alternatively, you can contact our Wellbeing Team on 02 4868 6200.