Understanding Dementia

Dementia Australia is the peak body for people of all ages living with all forms of dementia, their families and carers.

The National Dementia Helpline is open around Australia from 9:00am to 5:00pm (Monday to Friday excluding public holidays).

Contact the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.

There are many forms of dementia, usually occurring in individuals after the age of 65, but like many illnesses it can happen at any time. The progressive decline in a persons functioning can mean the individual may experience loss of memory, intellect, rationality, social skills and their emotional responses may seem obscure.

The key topics discussed in this section include:

What is dementia?

Dementia is the term used to describe the symptoms of a large group of illnesses which cause a progressive decline in a person’s functioning. It is a broad term used to describe a loss of memory, intellect, rationality, social skills and what would be considered normal emotional reactions.

Who gets dementia?

Most people with dementia are older, but it is important to remember that most older people do not get dementia. It is not a normal part of ageing. Dementia can happen to anybody, but it is more common after the age of 65 years. People in their 40s and 50s can also have dementia.

What causes dementia?

There are many different forms of dementia and each has its own causes. Some of the most common forms of dementia are:

Is it dementia?

There are a number of conditions that produce symptoms similar to dementia. By treating these conditions, the symptoms will disappear. These include some vitamin and hormone deficiencies, depression, medication clashes or overmedication, infections and brain tumours.

It is essential that a medical diagnosis is obtained at an early stage when symptoms first appear to ensure that a person who has a treatable condition is diagnosed and treated correctly. If the symptoms are caused by dementia, an early diagnosis will mean early access to support, information, and medication should it be available.

Can dementia be inherited?

This will depend on the cause of the dementia, so it is important to have a firm medical diagnosis. If there are concerns about the risk of inheriting dementia, consult your doctor or contact Alzheimer’s Australia to speak to a counsellor. Most cases of dementia are not inherited.

What are the early signs of dementia?

The early signs of dementia are very subtle and vague and may not be immediately obvious. Some common symptoms may include:

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a physical condition which attacks the brain resulting in impaired memory, thinking and behaviour. It is the most common form of dementia accounting for between 50% and 70% of all cases.

What can be done to help?
At present there is no prevention or cure for most forms of dementia. However, some medications have been found to reduce some symptoms.
Support is vital for people with dementia and the continued help of families, friends, and carers can really make a positive difference to managing the condition.

Dementia Australia offers a range of Help Sheets providing advise and information regarding dementia. 

Contact the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.

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