Dementia diminishes cognitive abilities. It affects thinking, behaviour and your ability to perform everyday tasks.
Your cognitive functions include your memory, language skills, ability to understand information, judgement, attention span and your spatial skills – your ability to judge distance, depth or dimension.
People with dementia often have difficulty solving problems and controlling their emotions. They may also experience personality changes.
While most people with dementia are older, many older people do not get dementia. Caused by brain disease, dementia is not a normal part of ageing.
Some of the common diseases that cause dementia are:
Alzheimer’s disease causes a gradual decline in cognitive abilities, often beginning with memory loss.
Vascular dementia caused by damage to the blood vessels in the brain by a single stroke or by several strokes occurring over time.
Lewy body disease abnormal clumps of the protein alpha-synuclein that develop inside nerve cells, causing changes in movement, thinking and behaviour.
Frontotemporal dementia, which involves progressive damage to the frontal and/or temporal lobes of the brain.
So, what are the early signs of dementia?
The most common symptoms of dementia include:
• Progressive and frequent memory loss
• Personality change
• Apathy and withdrawal
• Loss of ability to perform everyday tasks
Diagnosis and treatment
There are several conditions that produce symptoms similar to dementia which can often be treated. These include some vitamin and hormone deficiencies, depression, medication effects, infections and brain tumours.
It is essential to obtain a medical diagnosis early when symptoms first appear to ensure that a person with a treatable condition receives the correct treatment. If the symptoms are caused by dementia, an early diagnosis will mean early access to support, information and medication.
Information for family and friends
Early diagnosis is essential for early access to support, information and medication which can make a significant difference. Dementia Australia offers support, information, education and counselling.
Dementia Australia offers support, information, education and counselling. Contact the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.
The website has a range of help sheets which provide advice and practical strategies on the most common issues about dementia.