Key things you need to know:
- Dementia is a collection of symptoms that are caused by disorders affecting the brain. It is not one specific disease.
- It can happen to anybody, but it is more common after the age of 65 years.
- Early onset dementia can affect those in their 40s and 50s.
- There are many different forms of dementia and each has its own causes.
- The early signs are very subtle and vague and may not be immediately obvious.
- There is no prevention or cure for most forms of dementia.
Dementia is a catch-all term for a large group of cognitive illnesses and conditions. You can have one or more types of dementia.
Dementia Australia have some excellent resources to familiarise yourself with, and learn the many different ways that it affects Australians. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions.
What is dementia?
Dementia describes a collection of symptoms that are caused by disorders affecting the brain. It is not one specific disease.
It 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.
Who gets it?
Most people with dementia are older, but it is important to remember that not all older people get dementia. It is not a normal part of ageing or memory loss.
It can happen to anybody, but it is more common after the age of 65 years. People in their 40s and 50s can also develop something called younger onset dementia, also known as early onset dementia, which is any form of dementia in people under the age of 65.
Although it is much less common in people under 65, as of 2019, approximately 27,247 Australians were living with younger onset dementia.
What causes it?
There are many different forms of dementia and each has its own causes.
The most common types are
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Vascular dementia
- Dementia with Lewy bodies (Lewy Body dementia)
- Fronto Temporal Lobar Degeneration (FTLD)
- Huntington’s disease
- Alcohol related dementia (Korsakoff’s syndrome)
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
Is it dementia or something else?
There are a number of conditions that produce symptoms similar to dementia. These include some vitamin and hormone deficiencies, depression, medication clashes or overmedication, infections and brain tumours.
It is essential that a medical diagnosis is obtained at an early stage when symptoms first appear, to ensure that a person who has a treatable condition is diagnosed and treated correctly.
If the symptoms are caused by dementia, an early diagnosis will mean early access to support, information, and medication should it be available.
Can it be inherited?
This will depend on the cause, so it is important to have a firm medical diagnosis.
If you are concerned about the risk of inheriting dementia, consult your doctor or contact Dementia Australia to speak to a counsellor.
Most cases are not inherited.
What are the early signs?
The early signs of dementia are very subtle and vague and may not be immediately obvious. Some common symptoms may include:
• Progressive and frequent memory loss
• Personality change
• Apathy and withdrawal
• Loss of ability to perform everyday tasks.
What can be done to help?
At present there is no prevention or cure. However, some medications have been found to reduce some symptoms. Support is vital for people with dementia. The help of families, friends and carers can make a positive difference to managing the condition.
To learn more, visit Dementia Australia.
The VMCH Customer Service Centre is available to help Monday to Friday 8am-6pm or Saturday 10am to 2pm on 1300 698 624, or visit us at www.vmch.com.au.
Written by VMCH – February 24, 2021 – View a range of our articles here.