At Autograph Care we work with elderly people who may or may not suffer with dementia. Here is a brief summary of the causes of dementia and the effects this may have on the individual.

Dementia is not a natural part of ageing

We all forget a name or a face sometimes. Especially as we get older. But dementia is something different. Memory problems are one of a number of symptoms that people with dementia may experience. Others include difficulties with planning, thinking things through, struggling to keep up with a conversation, and sometimes changes in mood or behaviour. Dementia is not a natural part of ageing and it doesn’t just affect older people. Over 40,000 people under 65 in the UK have dementia. This is called early-onset or young-onset dementia. Dementia is caused by diseases of the brain. Diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease cause nerve cells to die, damaging the structure and chemistry of the brain.

What is the difference between Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease?

Dementia is caused by different diseases that affect the brain. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common of these diseases. Some other common types of dementia include vascular dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies. There are lots of other causes and no two types of dementia are the same.

In different types of dementia there is damage to different parts of the brain. Other types of dementia include vascular dementia (caused by problems with blood supply to the brain), mixed dementia (usually Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia), dementia with Lewy bodies, frontotemporal dementia (including Pick’s disease).

Alzheimer’s disease tends to start slowly and progress gradually. Vascular dementia after a stroke often progresses in a ‘stepped’ way. This means that symptoms are stable for a while and then suddenly get worse. Everyone experiences dementia in their own way. Lots of things can affect this, including the person’s attitude to their diagnosis and their physical health. Other factors include the relationships they have with friends and family, the treatment and support they get, and their surroundings.

As a person’s dementia progresses, they may begin to behave in ways that other people find difficult to understand. This can be one of the most difficult aspects of living with dementia, both for the person with the condition and those around them. Changes in behaviour are sometimes the first sign that someone has dementia. For some people, they can come on gradually and can be hard to recognise at first. For others, the changes can be more sudden.

Dementia can affect a person’s personality and habits, which may lead to changes in behaviour. For example, they may no longer be able to do things they enjoy or follow their interests without help, or they may experience symptoms of depression. The person’s response to different needs means their behaviour may change in a number of ways. You may have heard these called ‘challenging behaviours’. It’s important to remember that the person isn’t trying to be difficult. The behaviour can be just as challenging for them as for the people supporting them. Dementia is progressive. This means symptoms may be relatively mild at first but they get worse with time.

Dementia affects everyone differently, however it can be helpful to think of dementia progressing in ‘three stages’. A person in the later stages is likely to experience severe memory loss, problems with communication and daily activities, and greater changes in behaviour and more physical problems than in the earlier stages.

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