What is Dementia?

It’s important to start by correcting a common misperception – dementia is not just forgetfulness. It’s an acquired condition of intellectual deterioration which affects at least two areas of cognitive function, such as: being able to make a plan and carry it out; being able to weigh information and make good decisions; initiating activities; and being able to gauge appropriate social behaviour. People with dementia are often also affected by dramatic changes in personality.
*Subjects in the photo do not have dementia or any disease related to dementia. Infography references are in Resources section.

An overview of dementia

Signs & Symptoms

It’s important to start by correcting a common misperception – dementia is not just forgetfulness. It’s an acquired complex of intellectual deterioration which affects at least two areas of cognitive function, such as: being able to make a plan and carry it out; being able to weigh information and make good decisions; initiating activities; being able to gauge appropriate social behaviour. People with dementia are often also affected by dramatic changes in personality.

People with dementia often experience:

  • Changes in mood, judgement and personality
  • Difficulty in communicating
  • Increased difficulty coping with day-to-day tasks

In a nutshell

So, in essence, dementia is a syndrome that often begins with sporadic memory problems, then progresses to affect more areas of the brain. It can affect memory, thinking, orientation, comprehension, calculation, learning capacity, language, and judgement. Consciousness is not affected.

While dementia is a brain disease that mostly affects older people (50+ years) it is not considered to be a regular part of the aging process, and  in rare instances it can also  affect younger people, for example, early onset Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s is considered to be the most common cause of dementia and could contribute to as many as 40-60% of overall cases.

Mental illnesses like dementia have a huge economic impact on society. Currently dementia is estimated to cost around $818 billion per year – it is one of the major causes of disability and dependency among older people worldwide, and it can be overwhelming not just for those living with dementia but also for their families and caregivers.