It’s a term which describes a decline in thinking skills, such as memory, and is big enough to impact the person’s daily life. Dementia itself is not a disease, it describes a group of symptoms caused by various diseases or conditions.

Damage to the brain cells interferes with the brain cells’ ability to communicate with each other and therefore affecting the person’s normal communication and thinking.

Things that damage brain cells could include alcohol, depression, the side effects of medicine or most commonly, Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease (more information below) is what causes around 50% of all dementia.

There are many symptoms of dementia but the person must have at least two of the symptoms for it to be dementia.

  1. Usually the first symptom is a great loss in memory. The person will not notice it, but their friends and family will. Eventually they may forget where they are or who their loved ones are.
  2. Trouble communicating or understanding words
  3. Getting lost in places they regularly go to such as the supermarket or their own home.

what you can do to help

1. Be patient with the person. It’s not the person’s fault that he or she has dementia. You may have to repeat what you say a few times because the person will probably not remember what you say the first time.

2. Communicate in short, simple and clear phrases

3. Speak slowly to the person

4. In the more advanced stages of dementia, make sure this person has taken care of personal hygiene. (eg. Showered, used the bathroom)

Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that occurs when the brain chemicals change and the number of neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the brain) decrease.

Also, the brain may form protein and fiber clumps which stop the brain cells from communicating properly and eventually this destroys the area of the brain used to form memories.

Though Alzheimer’s is currently incurable, there are medicines that can help slowdown the disease. They may even be able to slow Alzheimer’s long enough that it won’t ever really affect the person that much in their life.

Alzheimer’s is being highly researched though and much of the information we know about it has only be discovered in the past few years.