Understanding dementia

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.

Each person is unique and will experience dementia in their own way.

  • There are about 700,000 people in the UK with dementia
  • Dementia mainly affects older people. However, it can affect younger people: there are 15,000 people in the UK under the age of 65 who have dementia
  • Dementia can affect men and women

There is currently no cure for dementia. However, drugs and other treatments such as cognitive stimulation (exercising the brain) can improve a persons functioning and abilities, it is important you and your family get the help and support you need. You can find out more about living with dementia in our 'Living Well with Dementia' leaflet. 

Identifying dementia is not straightforward, but 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
  • A physical examination
  • Laboratory tests (blood tests)and /or brain scans
  • Cognitive tests (tests such as thinking and memory)

There is an overal focus both nationally and locally on three themes: raising awareness, early diagnosis and intervention and improving the quality of care. This means looking at:

  • Quick and competent assessment
  • An accurate diagnosis, sensitively given
  • Immediate care and support following diagnosis
  • Access to continuing support for people with dementia and their carers
  • Access to good quality information about dementia and the local help available
  • Access to good quality care in the home, hospital, or care home provided by people with an understanding of dementia, and
  • Access to peer support groups

A person with dementia will receive care from many different people across the NHS and social care. This mainly involves clinical commissioning groups and local councils.

Useful links

  • Kernow Carers ServiceKernow Carers Service is a partnership of three organisations who work together to provide carer support workers, forums, helpline, support groups, community drop ins.
  • Dementia RoadmapThe Cornwall and Isles of Scilly roadmap provides national information about the dementia journey alongside local information about services, support groups and care pathways