Management of Dementia

Management of Dementia

Many of us become more forgetful as we get older. Many of us will have 'mild cognitive impairment'. Some of us will begin to develop more serious problems and may worry that they are the first signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. This leaflet looks at some causes of poor memory, and how to find help if you are worried about your own memory or someone else’s.

Memory problems :

Many things can affect our memory and dementia may not be the problem. For instance, it is common to experience memory problems as a result of stress, depression, grief and vitamin deficiencies. Ask your doctor if you are worried about yourself or someone you know with memory problems.

What is dementia?

Dementia is a general term used to describe a loss of memory that keeps getting worse - or is 'progressive'. There can be many different causes, they will all involve loss of memory, but they have other symptoms which are different according to the cause.

Dementia often starts off with just memory problems, but can also involve:

  • difficulty planning and carrying out day-to-day tasks
  • difficulty communicating
  • changes in mood, judgement or personality.

As dementia is 'progressive', the symptoms get worse over time. Someone with dementia will become more dependent on others to help them as the illness progresses.

How common is dementia?

Dementia is a common.

We are more likely to suffer from dementia as we get older. So:

  • at the age of 65 about 5 in every 100 people will have dementia
  • by the age of 80 about 20 people in every 100 will have some degree of dementia.

Dementia can sometimes occur in younger people and may run in families, although this is rare.

What is Mild Cognitive Impairment?

Sometimes people will have problems with their memory which the person may notice or which might be picked up by others. These problems may not significantly affect the person's everyday life and are not severe enough to be called dementia. This is called Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

Out of 100 people with MCI, about 10-15 people will develop dementia in any one year. We can't yet identify those people who will go on to develop dementia.

What can cause dementia?

There are different causes for dementia.

Alzheimer’s Disease :

This is the most common cause of dementia and accounts for about 7 in 10 of all dementias. It typically begins with memory problems and slowly gets worse over time. People will often notice that they can't remember things that happened recently, even though they can still remember what happened years ago. They will often find that they have difficulty recalling particular words and naming objects. Sometimes they are not aware of their memory loss and the problem is noticed by others.

They may also find it hard to:

  • Learn new things.
  • Remember recent events, appointments or phone messages.
  • Remember the names of people or places. This can lead to problems with even simple daily activities.
  • Understand or communicate with others.
  • Remember where they have put things. They may worry that someone has been in their house or has taken things.
  • that there is anything wrong with them. They may become cross when someone tries to help them.

Carers often comment that people with Alzheimer’s show subtle changes to their personality. For example, they might behave or react differently to how they did before they became ill.

In Alzheimer's, damaged tissue seems to build up in the brain to form deposits called 'plaques' and 'tangles'. These cause the brain cells around them to die. The disease also affects the chemicals in the brain which transmit messages from one cell to another. The chemical most affected is acetylcholine.