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There are different forms of dementia Image

Dementia is caused by a number of diseases that affect the brain. The most common is Alzheimer’s but diseases also include vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies and Pick’s disease.

Different types of dementia affect the brain at different rates and in different ways, but other things like someone’s personal circumstance, the people around them and the environment in which they live, will affect their experience of dementia. Dementia progresses in a way that is unique to each individual.

It is true that more people over 65 have dementia but it is not exclusively an older person’s disease, younger people get dementia too.

Five things you need to know about dementia:

  • Dementia is not a natural part of the ageing process.
  • Dementia is caused by diseases of the brain.
  • It is not just about losing your memory.
  • It’s possible to live well with it.
  • There is more to the person than the dementia.

Dementia is not a normal part of aging; it is an overall term for a set of symptoms that is caused by disorders affecting the brain.

Symptoms may include:

  • Loss of memory
  • Impaired judgment and reasoning
  • Changes in mood and behaviour
  • Reduced communication abilities
  • Difficulty performing familiar tasks

Many people think dementia is the same as Alzheimer’s disease; however, Alzheimer’s disease is just one form of dementia. Other causes of dementia include (but are not limited to) Lewy Body disease, head trauma, fronto-temporal dementia, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s disease. These conditions can have similar and overlapping symptoms.

Some conditions can cause reversible dementias which can be controlled and sometimes cured. Examples of these conditions include certain vitamin deficiencies, medication side effects and depression. In order to understand the cause of the dementia, it is important to arrange for a full medical assessment as early as possible when the warning signs of dementia are noticed.

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There is not a simple test to tell us if someone has Alzheimer’s. Diagnosis requires a comprehensive medical evaluation, which may include:

  • Your family’s medical history
  • Cognitive tests to evaluate memory and thinking
  • Blood tests (to rule out possible causes of symptoms)
  • Brain imaging

While doctors can usually determine if someone has dementia, it may be more difficult to distinguish what type of dementia. Misdiagnosis is more common with younger-onset Alzheimer’s. Receiving an accurate diagnosis earlier in the disease process is important because it allows:

  • A higher likelihood of benefiting from available treatments, which can improve quality of life
  • The opportunity to receive support services
  • A chance to participate in clinical trials and studies
  • An opportunity to express wishes regarding future care and living arrangements
  • Time to put financial and legal plans in place