Awareness Blog – What Is Dementia?15th May 2017

Dementia is caused by diseases of the brain. It is not itself a disease but is an umbrella term for the symptoms caused by the diseases which affect the brain.

The most common disease of the brain is Alzheimer’s and some others include vascular dementia as well as dementia with Lewy Bodies (or Lewy Body dementia). The most common symptoms of these diseases of the brain are memory loss and confusion.

There are many misconceptions about dementia and the most common is the idea that dementia is just losing your memory when you are older – it is a normal part of ageing and will come to us all.

It is true to say that one of the symptoms of dementia is memory loss, but it is not a natural part of the ageing process. While statistics show the majority of people living with dementia are over 65 it is not a disease that is exclusive to the elderly. Dementia does not discriminate between age, sex, or race.

Most recently programmes such as Emmerdale and EastEnders have shown us how dementia can affect not only the person living with the diagnosis but also their family and friends. This helps us to open up the discussion about dementia and help to understand why people living with dementia behave in certain ways.

As many people already know, dementia is usually initially identified as a result of memory loss. As dementia is a form of brain damage it can also affect the way people speak, how they behave and can also affect their mood. It can also affect visual perception. The way dementia manifests differs from person to person. It is unique to each individual person and therefore no single person living with a diagnosis of dementia will be affected in the same way.

Despite a diagnosis of dementia it is still possible for people to live well. You may have noticed, I have not used the term ‘suffering’ but instead have said ‘living with.’ This is to help remove the stigma attached to dementia and remember that there is more to a person than the dementia.

It is really important for anyone who has recently been diagnosed with dementia to ensure they have someone they trust to manage their affairs for them if there is a time when they are no longer able to make decisions themselves i.e. they lack capacity. The best thing to do in this situation is to speak to a solicitor about a Lasting Power of Attorney. This document gives you the control to decide who will deal with your assets when you are no longer able to. It is also really important to make a will to be certain that your assets will pass to the people you want to benefit.