Introduction To Dementia

What Is Dementia?

Dementia is a general term to describe a set of symptoms that affect brain  function. These symptoms get worse over time and interfere with daily life. For  example, people with dementia often have challenges with:

Caregiver with hand on elderly woman
  • Memory loss  
  • Problem solving  
  • Language 
  • Confusion & disorientation 
  • Planning & organizing
  • Mood & personality

Common Questions & Worries

People have many questions and worries when they first start to learn about  dementia. Below are the answers to some of the most common ones.

Not All Memory Loss Is A Sign Of Dementia

As people get older, they may start having problems with their memory. For  example, they may forget things like why they walked into a room, where they  put the car keys, or someone’s name. This is normal age-related memory loss.  Because memory loss is one of the most common symptoms of dementia, people  get worried that signs of any memory problem is a sign of dementia. However, It  is important to know that not all memory loss is a sign of dementia.  

Only a doctor can determine what is causing someone’s dementia. To help make  a diagnosis, the doctor will want to know if the person’s memory problems have  been affecting their ability to safely and independently go about their daily life. 

It Is Very Rare To Inherit Dementia  

Most cases of dementia are not inherited, meaning they don’t get passed  down to children or grandchildren. Scientists say that only very rare types of  dementia, like Familial Alzheimer’s Disease, have a genetic link. These types of  cases account for only 5% of all Alzheimer’s cases and typically develop earlier in  life, such as age 30-40. 

Dementia Is NOT A Normal Part Of Aging 

Not everyone who gets older will develop dementia. In fact, many people never  do. There are things you can do to reduce your risk of dementia, like:  

  • Being physically active  
  • Being socially active  
  • Eating a healthy diet  
  • Managing stress  
  • Limiting smoking & drinking
  • Wearing a helmet if biking, skiing, etc.

Dementia & Alzheimer’s Are NOT The Same Thing 

Dementia is a general term that describes a set of symptoms affecting brain function. Alzheimer’s disease is just one type of dementia. There are also other  types of dementias, like lewy body, vascular, frontotemporal, and mixed dementias.  A specific dementia diagnosis tells you more about what you can expect.

People Can Have A Meaningful Life With Dementia

A dementia diagnosis doesn’t mean life is over. Although abilities may change,  it’s still possible to live a meaningful life. Below are some ways you can help your  care recipient do this:

Man and woman playing music together
  • Encourage them to participate in activities that are important or special to  them. As the dementia progresses, you may have to help your care recipient adapt the way they participate to their changing abilities. You can do this by changing the environment, the activity, the order it is done in, or the level of support you provide.  
  • Live in the present moment. Many people say a dementia diagnosis has helped them and the people they care for appreciate the gift of time. How does the  person want to spend their time? Focus on what the person can still do and their strengths. 
  • Use strategies to maintain independence. You may be tempted to do things for your care recipient, but this can lead to losing skills faster, relying more on others, and feeling idle or useless.
  • Maintain social connections. Keeping in touch with one’s social circle can  promote wellbeing. Some people get scared because they don’t know about  dementia and aren’t sure how to interact anymore. Learning about the disease and communication strategies can help!

Additional Resources

  • Caregiver helping with aggressive behavior

    Dementia and Aggressive Behavior

  • Caregiver assisting senior man out of bed

    Dementia and Skills for Responding to Communication Changes

  • Caregiver Hands

    Where To Look For Support

  • Man and woman talking over coffee

    Warning Signs Of Dementia