Written by Stephanie Koathes

What is Dementia?

You may have heard this term before, dementia, it certainly sounds unpleasant but what does it actually mean?

The term ‘dementia’ comes from the Latin word ‘demens’, meaning senseless or ‘being out of one’s mind’. Dementia itself is not a disease rather it is a general term used to describe a group of symptoms relating to progressive loss of memory and other cognitive functions severe enough to interfere with daily life and lasting more than six months.

There are different kinds of dementia, with Alzheimer’s disease being the most common form, followed by vascular dementia which generally occurs after a stroke.

Other types of dementia include Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia and mixed dementia —a combination of two or more disorders, for instance a person may have Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia.

With dementia one or more of the following mental processes is significantly impaired:

  • Memory
  • Ability to communicate and vocabulary
  • Ability to concentrate
  • Reasoning and judgment
  • Visual perception

There may also be delusions, strong beliefs without proof, for example that someone is stealing money from them, changes in mood or personality or hallucinations.

The symptoms of dementia range from mild to severe, and though more common in older people, they are NOT a normal part of aging.

Many dementias are progressive; symptoms gradually get worse over time.

If you recognise these symptoms in yourself or a loved one, don’t ignore them.

Sources: Alzheimer’s Association, National Institute on Aging




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