About Dementia

Dementia is a term used to describe a range of progressive conditions affecting the brain. 


It is an umbrella term for more than 200 subtypes, but there are five that are most common.

The first, Alzheimer’s disease, is arguably the most recognised form with an estimated 44 million individuals affected worldwide. 

Other common types include frontotemporal dementia, vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies and mixed dementia.

Dementia affects 850,000 people of all ages in the UK – a figure that is estimated to rise to 1.6 million by 2040.


As a result, the cost of caring for those with the condition will inevitably increase too.
Current figures show that £34.7 billion is spent annually in the UK alone, of £770 Billion globally.

By 2040, it will be £94.1 billion in the UK. 



Currently there is no cure for any type of dementia and, more worryingly, research to discover one is severely underfunded.
For every £30,000 that caring for a person suffering with dementia costs the UK economy each year, there is only £90 allocated to research.

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Types of dementia


As mentioned previously, there are more than 200 subtypes of dementia.


However, five are most common in the UK and across the world. 

Alzheimer’s Disease


Alzheimer’s disease is the most widely recognised cause of dementia, accounting for two-thirds of all cases.

There is no single cause, but theory suggests it occurs due a combination of factors including genetics, lifestyle, health and age.


The initial symptoms will appear in a very mild form with the individual suffering from mood swings, confusion and some short-term memory loss. 

However over time, as the Alzheimer’s develops, those symptoms will worsen. 

The rate of progress varies from person to person.


Vascular Dementia


Up to 20% of dementia sufferers have Vascular Dementia, making it is the second most common cause of dementia in the UK. 

As the name suggests, it is caused by the body failing to supply blood to the brain


People who suffer from strokes, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and other vascular diseases are at greater risk. 

The symptoms can be quite different to other types of dementia with sufferers struggling with mobility and thinking as well as experiencing mood changes such as depression and apathy. 


The progression of Vascular dementia can appear unpredictable for loved ones with sufferers experiencing long periods during which symptoms are stable before they worsen without warning.


Dementia with Lewy bodies


Dementia with Lewy Bodies is the third most common cause of dementia in the UK, affecting 15% of people with dementia. 

Research surrounding DLB is limited, and findings so far suggest genetics may have an impact while other potential factors are still being explored.


DLB is often comparable with Alzheimer’s in terms of symptoms, but many also experience vivid hallucinations, develop sleep disorders and generally struggle to focus. 

Those suffering with DLB can also be physically affected, often experiencing tremors and slowed movement from muscle stiffness. 

Much like Alzheimer’s, the progression of DLB varies from person to person.


Frontotemporal Dementia

Less than 5% of dementia cases are caused by frontotemporal dementia, but it is the second most common cause the condition in those under the age of 65

Also referred to as Pick’s disease FTD, as the name would suggest, affects the frontal and temporal lobes.


These are areas of the brain that control key functions such as behaviour, emotion and language.

Depending on the damage and the areas affected, the symptoms and the rate of progression vary.


Young onset Dementia


It is estimated that there are 42,000 younger people with dementia in the UK, which accounts for more than 5% of all those with the condition. 

Young Onset Dementia is used to describe those under the age of 65 who are suffering with some form of dementia.


Unlike with elderly people, there is a wider range of diseases that cause young onset dementia, but it is still likely to be a rarer form among young people. 

It is also more likely to be hereditary than late onset dementia, which is why being aware of potential symptoms in those predisposed to the disease is important. 

Symptoms often present themselves early and include trouble with walking, balance and coordination.

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Effects of Dementia

Dementia effects people in three key areas; their thinking, their behaviour and their ability to perform everyday tasks.
Cognitive functions that may be affected are an individual’s memory and attention span as well as their language skills, judgement, spatial awareness and their capacity to retain information.
Often dementia will be diagnosed when two or more of these functions have become significantly impaired.

The Sundown Effect

The sundown effect, also referred to as sundowning, is a term used to describe a change in behaviour around dusk.


Those who suffer with dementia often experience this symptom which exacerbates their feelings of confusion or agitation.

As soon as it begins to darken outside, sufferers can become angry or confused and in many cases insist they need to go home even if they are there already.

It is thought as darkness falls, dementia sufferers instinctively feel panicked because they believe are not in the right place and therefore unsafe



Brain shrinkage

Many of the most common types of dementia mentioned here begin with shrinking brain tissue due to an abnormal build up of proteins in the brain.
It causes nerve cells to decrease in function and eventually die.
Once they do, different parts of the brain will begin to shrink and cause key cognitive functions to be lost.
As a result, each type of dementia will often have a specific set of early symptoms depending on which area is affected.
As time progresses, regardless of the dementia type, the symptoms will become similar to each other as the brain shrinks further.

Anger, aggression and frustration

A common symptom in dementia sufferers is an increase in anger and aggression towards those around them.
Whether it exhibits itself in a verbal or physical form, it can be distressing not only the individual but their loved ones too. 
Many factors can trigger these emotions including boredom, confusion, over-stimulation and pain but it is important to note that none are intentional. 
People with dementia struggle to understand and recognise their needs which causes them to lash out from frustration. 
In many instances, it is an attempt to communicate they need something but do not know how to get it.

How you can help an individual with dementia

Currently, there is no cure for dementia which is why people turn to traditional and alternative medicines to help with symptoms.


  • Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors: There is evidence these medicines help to treat Dementia with Lewy bodies, Alzheimer’s and Vascular dementia.

  • Memantine: This medicine can help treat the symptoms of those with moderate or severe Alzheimer’s, dementia with Lewy bodies and those who are suffering from combined Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia.

  • Risperidone /Haloperidol: These antipsychotic medications are often prescribed for those showing persistent aggression or extreme distress if coping mechanisms haven’t been effective.


Helping the Elderly

CBD Oil (Cannabidiol Oil)


Some research has suggested high concentrations of CBD oil can be helpful in managing some of the symptoms of dementia. 

Those who suffer from dementia-related aggression, agitation and anxiety could benefit from regular use of CBD oils to create a sense of calm and contentedness. 


It is said to reduce inflammation and oxygen build-up on the brain, working with the body to stimulate and protect it. 

Ultimately this should help slow the decline of a variety of brain functions, from memory to movement.


How to approach an individual with dementia

It can be difficult to spot early signs of dementia because there is varying types that affect people in different ways.
However, there are several symptoms that overlap in the early stages and can be a cause for concern. 
Often a person would have to be suffering from at least two of these symptoms in a severe way to establish a diagnosis. 


  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty with routine tasks
  • Difficulty making plans or solving problems
  • Becoming easily confused
  • Challenges understanding information
  • Poor judgement
  • Changes in personality or mood
  • Depression or apathy
  • Reduced concentration



Assisting an Individual with Dementia

Dementia is a frightening disease to contend with and people can feel that they are losing control of their lives.

It is important when you are assisting a person with dementia that you remember:


• They require patience to process their surroundings and should take their time with any task

• You should try to understand how they might be feeling and put yourself in their shoes if you are unsure what to do

• Try to gauge how they are feeling by taking note of the emotions they are expressing and respond appropriately in a friendly and reassuring tone

• In times where they are clearly becoming distressed, asking direct questions that require a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer is helpful 

• Try not to become frustrated if they forget things you have said or questions you have already asked

• Treat them with the same level of respect that you would wish to have if you were in their position


If you are struggling to communicate with someone who is suffering from dementia, then the following tips may help:


• Make eye contact when speaking to them

• Try not to cover your mouth when talking because this can make you difficult to understand

• Do not stand too close to the person when speaking because this may put them under pressure

• Ensure your facial expressions match the tone of your voice

• Speak calmly and be as clear as you can

• Don’t not use a patronising tone or speak to them as if they are a child

Elderly couple at dusk

How to relax a person with dementia


It can be easy for a person with dementia to become agitated or feel anxious. 


If they do, then you’ll likely notice a change in mood, such as becoming irrationally angry or perhaps being unable to sit still…


Whatever behaviour they exhibit, it is important you recognise what could be triggering their behaviour and, most importantly, know how best to calm them.


There are several situations that can cause irritability and not all of them are predictable.


However often you will find a change in routine can cause upset.

Moving to a different place, new people being around them, being in hospital, feeling tired, hungry or dehydrated and the Sundown Effect are all possible causes. 


The condition removes a person’s ability to understand new information and stimuli which can cause them to become emotionally distressed and confused. 


To prevent, or even diffuse, these situations there are a number of things that you can do:


First, create a soothing environment. 

It should be a calm and quiet place, with belongings that make the person feel safe, where they can take time to rest and understand that they are safe.


Routine is also positive in the lives of people with dementia because it helps them to focus.

However, again, make sure tasks are simple and not too mentally or physically strenuous.


Check as well that their personal needs are met.

Be mindful of hunger, thirst, pain, constipation, a full bladder and physical fatigue.


Finally, be wary of things you know might be triggering them such as loud noises, television and bright lights. Try to avoid them if possible.



My Memory Club -Dementia Friendly Website -Free Activities

Alzheimer’s Disease is like an iceberg

An iceberg has over 90% of it’s mass below the surface

Meaning that you don’t see 90% of the iceberg

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