Understanding Dementia – What is Dementia?

understand dementia

When people hear the word dementia, it is easy to jump to conclusions about what it is and what happens. However, people don’t always know what dementia actually is, so we have put together this guide to help you with understanding dementia and how to find extra resources of information.

Spotting the symptoms of Dementia

understanding dementia symptoms

The best way of understanding dementia is to focus on the key symptoms. The word dementia describes a set of symptoms that may include memory loss, difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or speech and language problems. These changes are often small to start with, but for something with dementia they become severe enough to affect their every lives. A person with dementia may also experience change in their moods and behaviours. In the UK alone there are approximately 850,000 people suffering with dementia. That’s why it’s important for us all in understanding dementia.

We’ve got in to this in more detail in our article on the Early Signs of Dementia

What causes dementia

What causes Dementia?

Dementia is caused when the brain is damaged by diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease or a series of strokes. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia but not all dementia is due to Alzheimer’s. The specific symptoms that someone with dementia can experience will depend on the parts of the brain that are damaged and the type of disease that is causing the dementia.

Who is affected with dementia

Who is affected with Dementia?

Dementia mainly affects people over the age of 65, with the likelihood that they will develop dementia at some point as they increase with age. However, it can affect younger people too with over 43,000 people under the age of 65 experiencing dementia. Other people who are affected by dementia are family members and carers who have a need of understanding dementia.


Be prepared and early diagnosis

Understanding dementia can be difficult without the correct information and the appropriate healthcare, but getting an early diagnosis can help in some cases where there are drugs that can delay the progression of the disease. Also contacting organisations such as Alzheimers Society, Dementia UK, Carers UK will help you understand how to cope with elderly parents with Dementia at all stages.  They provide practical guides, information on how to look after your parents at home as well as practical support groups both patients and carers. In particular, Dementia UK has published a very informative booklet on support for everyone in the family about coping with dementia. Also, check out the NHS site which also has lots of useful information.


Understanding the situation

It’s the small things that can throw you off balance, such as an elderly parent forgetting who you are, walking around in the middle of the night, losing their temper for no reason or losing interest in something that they have always been passionate about. It can be very frustrating and challenging as can understanding dementia. But taking time to better understand what this person is thinking and how they are feeling can help in this situation and how to provide the best support.

Everything starts to change for the person but their life shouldn’t be determined just because of their condition. There are many other factors aside from the symptoms of dementia that play a huge role in shaping someone’s experience. These include the relationships the person has, their environment and the support they receive.

Click here for a checklist of ideas for coping with looking after someone with dementia and understanding dementia better.

Additional Resources for Understanding Dementia


Alzheimer's Society- United Against Dementia

Alzheimer’s Society has everything to offer from the National Dementia Helpline to engaging with others through the online community Talking Point. Alzheimer’s Society provides all the information for care and support for your elderly parent. For more information on understanding dementia and the support near you check out the website.

Dementia UK

Dementia UK is a great charity to get your elderly parent involved in. Understanding dementia with Dementia UK can really benefit you as the site gives tons of information on the different types of dementia, including all the ways in which you can support your elderly parent. Providing all you need to know about the caring industry and has its very own Admiral Nursing Dementia Helpline. Check the website to find your nearest Nursing Team.

Carers UK

Carers UK is a great charity supporting families with all kinds of caring situations. Understanding dementia with Carers UK is great with additional help from the We Connect an online community, enabling people to discuss their caring options and personal experiences. It has it’s very own National Carers Strategy which is worth looking at. Another great resource to check out is the testimonials page to see for yourself all the benefits that Carers UK provides, showing all the great work these carers do and how the charity best supports them.


Unforgettable is an amazing site for anyone with a relative who has dementia.  It has an online shop offering a wide range of products to help your parent at home with different stages of their dementia. For a step forward in understanding dementia with Unforgettable check out the site. It has excellent advice and information including it’s very own online community forum, giving you the chance to join and meet others in a similar situation to you. As well as having a blog for you to stay up to date with all the news and articles on dementia.

Dementia Challengers

Dementia Challengers is an excellent site with extensive information on caring and what to expect. Set up and run by a professional carer who aims to share their experience and expertise, helping you keep up to date with all the information you need on dementia. From a personal blog about caring for others to appropriate healthcare, diagnosis and safety in the home. To further your knowledge of understanding dementia check out the site if you haven’t already found what you’ve been looking for.


The NHS offers great resources for additional information on understanding dementia. From why it’s important in getting a early dementia diagnosis, to finding activities for the elderly with dementia. The site provides information on memory cafes, sensory gardens and singing groups which have all been proven to significantly help calm elderly who are experiencing dementia.

dementia guide free download