While many of you out there know somebody who suffers from dementia, there are still a lot of people who are not yet familiar with some basic concepts concerning dementia. The general knowledge about the illness isn’t always sufficient and often provides information that is not one hundred percent accurate.

Through this page we hope to inform you a bit better about the illness, its origins, symptoms and treatment. On the Living with Dementia Page you can read more about people who are suffering from dementia and how to of help to them.

What is dementia?

The word dementia is derived from the Latin word “de” which means “apart” and “mens” (derived from mentis) which means “mind”. Put these two together and you will get something like “broken mind”.

Of course the mind is not literally broken, but the word does give us some idea about what we’re dealing with here. Dementia is often described as the progressive deterioration in cognitive function, or in simpler words: the ability to process thoughts becomes progressively weaker.

The progressive aspect here means the condition will get worse over a longer period of time. The deterioration of the ability to process thoughts is not (solely) caused by aging as is often the case but also with damage and/or disease of the brain. A stroke could potentially lead to brain damage while an example of a disease might be Alzheimer’s.

Unlike many common conceptions concerning dementia, it is NOT a specific syndrome or disease on its own. Dementia is a non-specific syndrome which can affect several areas of the human brain such as memory, problem-solving, language and attention.

When dementia appears in humans it will often involve some of these higher mental functions. In later stages people with dementia may not remember what day of the week it is, where they are and even recognize the people around them. Dementia is significantly more common among elderly people than any other group of people. However, it can potentially affect any adult human at pretty much any age.

Symptoms

SymptomsSome of the major symptoms of dementia are memory loss, moodiness and problems with communication. Memory loss and moodiness may be a consequence of the brain being damaged. People can become frightened and afraid about what is happening to them.

In many cases, later stages of dementia is marked by difficulties with everyday tasks like remembering to go the toilet, remember the location of the bedroom, kitchen etc. Many people with late stage dementia are not able to look after themselves.

According to experts dementia can be roughly divided into two different types. With Cortical Dementia the cerebral cortex is of the patient is affected. This is the outer layer of the brain and is important for cognitive processes such as memory and language. A form of cortical dementia would be Alzheimer’s disease.

With Subcortical Dementia a part of the brain beneath the outer layer will become affected or even damaged. Patients who suffer from subcortical dementia will often experience changes in their personality, attention span and their way of thinking rather than memory loss. Dementia’s that result from Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease and AIDS are often Subcortical Dementia.