Dementia is a syndrome (a group of related symptoms) associated with an ongoing decline of the brain and its abilities.

Symptoms and how it may impact on someone’s life:

Problems with:

  • memory loss
  • thinking speed
  • mental agility
  • communication skills (difficulty conveying their own thoughts, understanding how others are feeling)
  • reasoning and understanding
  • judgement
  • the person’s behaviour and/or personality (some people may develop disinhibited behaviour e.g. they may cease to understand why we need to wear clothes, or the social codes and norms relating to social and sexual behaviour)
  • the person’s ability to carry out daily living and self care activities
  • physical coordination and visual perception

In the early stages of dementia the person may be aware of these changes and this may have an impact on their general wellbeing and may be very distressing to them. Someone experiencing problems associated with dementia may feel confused, frustrated and frightened. A common symptom is short term memory loss; the individual may find it difficult to remember recent events or conversations. This can lead to them repeating stories or asking the same questions over and over again.

Though Dementia is most likely to be found in older people, it can also develop in younger people. When it occurs in people under retirement age it is often referred to as early onset dementia or sometimes young onset dementia. If you work with people with Down’s Syndrome it is important to look out for symptoms when the person is in middle age.

There are a number of different types of dementia, which affect individual’s differently. The two most common types are Vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Dementia is progressive and is a terminal illness with no known cure.

Use to answer question 9.1a of the Care Certificate

Some conditions can temporarily cause the person to show similar signs and symptoms to dementia. For example:

  • Constipation can cause temporary problems with memory.
  • A hearing impairment or significant visual impairment can sometime lead people to appear confused of disorientated.
  • A person’s medication can cause symptoms associated with dementia
  • It is also distressing for a person’s family and informal carers as the dementia progresses as the person’s personality, behaviour and ability can change beyond recognition.
  • Some mental health conditions may mimic dementia. For example: depression or conditions that result in people experiencing hallucinations, delusion and changes to their personality and behaviour
  • Age related memory impairment. Some older people find learning a new skill or recalling information difficult, this is part of the normal ageing process.
  • A stressful life, bereavement or other factors may influence a person’s ability to remember things and function as well as they usually do

Early diagnosis

Early diagnosis of Dementia enables the person and their family to have the appropriate sort of ongoing support which may prevent people from reaching crisis point and, in some cases, to know the type of dementia so that the appropriate treatment can be given. Early diagnosis can also help people to have control over decisions relating to how they wish to be cared for if they lose mental capacity (or to prepare for end of life care) as they can make these decisions in advance of the disease’s progression.

The experience of living with dementia is also affected by other people’s attitudes and views. Staff working with individual’s with dementia need to focus on the positive aspects of a person’s life and not assume that there is nothing to do to support an individual or just that the person has lost their abilities do carry out certain tasks.

The Alzheimer’s Society estimates that there are more than 40,000 people under the age of 65 living with dementia.

According to the NHS there are approximately 800,000 people in the UK with dementia.


67Use to answer question 9.1a   of the Care Certificate





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