What is dementia?
This section is written for members of the public, people with dementia and their carers. A version of this information in kiswahili can be found at the bottom of this page.
Dementia is a disease of the brain. Dementia is more common in older people, but is not a normal part of ageing. Not all older people get dementia.Dementia is the result of damage to neurones or nerve cells in the brain. This damage can be caused by different diseases such as Alzheimers disease, stroke or Parkinsons disease, and sometimes it is difficult to know the cause.
Symptoms of dementia are caused by damage to the nerve cells in the brain. They include:
Loss of memory – for example, they may forget recent events, information or names of familiar people. If memory loss becomes worse they may forget how to do familiar tasks, or become lost in familiar places.
Changes in personality – they may become anxious or fearful, easily angered, or less interested in activities. Sometimes they may become very sad or depressed.
Problems in communication – They may have difficulty in finding the right words, or use the wrong words. As the illness gets worse they may speak very little or not at all.
Loss of independence – for example they may start to have difficulty in making decisions, working or managing money. This may cause them to stop working or taking part in social activities.
As dementia gets worse, people may become dependent on others to help with their daily activities such as cooking, managing money and even dressing and bathing.
Can dementia be treated or cured?
Once dementia has started, it cannot be cured, but symptoms can be treated.It is important to see a doctor for further investigation as there are other causes of memory loss that can be treated.
It is important for carers and relatives to understand the symptoms and how best to help the patient
Can I prevent dementia in the future?
There is evidence that reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke through a healthy lifestyle can reduce the risk of dementia.This includes maintaining a healthy diet, taking part in regular exercise and avoiding smoking.
It is important to treat high blood pressure and diabetes. Older people should try to remain active and to take part in regular social activities in order to keep their brain active.