The term dementia is used to describe the symptoms that occur when the brain is affected by specific diseases and conditions. These include Alzheimer’s disease and sometimes as a result of a stroke vascular dementia.
There are about 700,000 people in the UK with dementia and each person is unique and will experience it in their own way.
- mainly affects older people
- can also affect younger people; there are 15,000 people in the UK under the age of 65.
- can affect men and women
There is currently no cure. However, drugs and other treatments such as cognitive stimulation (exercising the brain) can improve functioning and abilities. It’s important that the person with dementia and their family get the help and support they need.
Early and accurate diagnosis is important because:
- it will ensure you are treated for other possible causes for your symptoms
- sometimes other conditions can mimic dementia
- you can access services for support and treatment
- you can get help and advice from your GP, memory services, social services or the voluntary sector such as Alzheimer’s Society and support groups
- it allows you to plan for your future
Doctors are generally able to decide if you have dementia by:
- asking questions
- conducting a physical examination
- laboratory tests (blood tests) and/or brain scans
- cognitive tests (tests such as thinking and memory)
There is an overall focus both nationally and locally on 3 themes:
- Raising awareness.
- Early diagnosis and intervention.
- Improving the quality of care.
This means looking at:
- quick and competent assessment
- an accurate diagnosis, sensitively given
- immediate care and support following diagnosis
- continuing support for people and their carers
- information and the local help available
- care in the home, hospital, or care home provided by people with an understanding of dementia
- access to peer support groups
A person with dementia will receive care from many different people across the NHS, social care and the voluntary and community sector. This mainly involves clinical commissioning groups and local councils.