Dementia is a progressive degeneration of the brain and its ability to function. It is an extremely serious condition that changes a person’s personality and affects their ability to go about their daily life. Dementia mostly occurs in the elderly.
People with dementia suffer from worsening memory, particularly in relation to new information. At first, they may notice things like losing their keys more often, but as the disease progresses they may no longer recognise their own family members. They also worsen in their ability to make judgements, to manage their affairs, and to plan things. People with dementia lose social skills, and often have problems controlling their mood, with a tendency to become irritable or agitated. The symptoms typically emerge and worsen over a period of years.
There are a number of different causes of dementia, of which the most common is Alzheimer’s disease, linked with the build-up of abnormal ‘amyloid plaques’ and ‘tau tangles’ in the brain. Certain other types of dementia also have an abnormal build-up of tau protein in the brain; as a group, these are termed ‘tauopathies’.
People with dementia will ultimately become completely dependent on a caregiver. However, a limited number of symptomatic treatments are available that can improve a person’s functioning and quality of life, particularly in earlier stages of the disease.