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Dementia is caused by different diseases of the brain. These diseases affect the parts of the brain which are normally used for learning, memory and language.

Here are a few things that dementia isn’t:

  • it isn’t a single disease
  • it isn’t a normal part of ageing
  • the experience isn’t the same for everyone

Dementia is caused by a number of diseases that damage the nerve cells in the brain. A person’s ability to remember, plan, use language, find their way around and regulate their mood and behaviour may be affected. The most common causes of dementia are Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, mixed dementia (a combination of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular pathology in the brain) and Lewy Body Dementia.

Although Dementia usually affects people as they get older, it’s not a normal part of ageing. In fact nine out of ten older people don’t get dementia. Younger people can get dementia too; in someone under 65 it is called early or younger onset dementia.

Most cases of dementia are progressive so the symptoms get worse over time. How dementia affects any one individual can vary from person to person. Each individual will experience it differently and be affected in their own way. What someone with dementia can do, remember and understand may change from day to day.

Given that few people really understand what dementia is, this lack of knowledge and understanding can make life harder for people with dementia, their families and their carers. People are not being intentionally unkind; they often simply don’t know what to do or say. Sometimes that can make them avoid those living with dementia and their loved ones, which can appear hurtful.

It’s important that we all learn to understand dementia better so that we can offer more support and help to the person with dementia, keeping them engaged in their community and in society.

Life certainly changes when someone develops dementia but it certainly doesn’t end. By understanding dementia together, we can help people live well with dementia.

Although there is no cure for dementia, effective help is available. This can come in the form of medication and other treatments as well as a range of community supports and practical adjustments and adaptations to the person’s life and home. People can live well with dementia and a positive outlook is really important, as is support from family, friends and the wider community.

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