Ageing Information & Counselling
What is Dementia?
Dementia describes a collection of symptoms that are caused by disorders affecting the brain. It is not one specific disease.
Dementia affects thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday tasks. Brain function is affected enough to interfere with the person’s normal social or working life. The hallmark of dementia is the inability to carry out everyday activities as a consequence of diminished cognitive ability.
Doctors diagnose dementia if two or more cognitive functions are significantly impaired. The cognitive functions affected can include memory, language skills, understanding information, spatial skills, judgement and attention. People with dementia may have difficulty solving problems and controlling their emotions. They may also experience personality changes. The exact symptoms experienced by a person with dementia depend on the areas of the brain that are damaged by the disease causing the dementia. With many types of dementia, some of the nerve cells in the brain stop functioning, lose connections with other cells, and die. Dementia is usually progressive. This means that the disease gradually spreads through the brain and the person’s symptoms get worse over time.
Who gets dementia?
Dementia can happen to anybody, but the risk increases with age. Most people with dementia are older, but it is important to remember that most older people do not get dementia. It is not a normal part of ageing, but is caused by brain disease. Rarely, people under the age of 65 years develop dementia and this is called ‘younger onset dementia’. There are a few very rare forms of inherited dementia, where a specific gene mutation is known to cause the disease. In most cases of dementia however, these genes are not involved, but people with a family history of dementia do have an increased risk.
Concerns and Enquires
Initial concerns about changes to thinking and memory loss should be discussed with your family and family doctor. It's important to follow up any changes in memory or thinking patterns.
An initial assessment may involve a discussion with a health professional about changes in thinking, risk factors, a review of medications and screening tests. The health professional may also need to talk to a family member or carer to gain a complete picture of any changes.
- Doctor- An initial discussion with your doctor may include an assessment. A referral to a specialist may also be made.
- Practice Nurse- the initial screening may be undertaken by the practice nurse during a health check
- National Dementia Helpline
Ph: 1800 100 500
Quick Facts About The Region
Contact Dementia Australia Helpline
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