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What is dementia?

Dementia is a progressive disorder that affects how your brain works and in particular the ability to remember, think and reason.

It is not a disease in itself – but a group of symptoms that may accompany a number of diseases that affect the brain.

The most common of these is Alzheimer’s disease. Another is vascular dementia which can develop following a stroke or mini stroke or if there is blood vessel damage that interrupts the flow of blood to your brain. Other types of dementia include – dementia with Lewy bodies and frontotemporal dementia.

Dementia is not a consequence of growing old but the risk of having dementia increases with age.

In 2014, of the estimated that 850,000 people who were living with dementia in the UK, 773,502 were aged 65 and over.

Common symptoms of dementia

In most cases, the symptoms that characterise dementia come on gradually and get worse over time, often over a number of years.

Symptoms can vary according to the disease causing them and from person to person. They affect your daily life and are more than just occasional lapses. Symptoms of dementia include:

  • Struggling to remember things that happened recently, even though you can easily remember things from longer ago.
  • Struggling to follow conversations, particularly in groups.
  • Forgetting the names of people or things.
  • Struggling to follow a story on television or in a book, or understand magazine and newspaper articles.
  • Having trouble remembering the day or date.
  • Having trouble remembering where you put something, or where things are kept.
  • Being unaware that you are repeating yourself or losing the thread of what you are saying in mid- sentence.
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks.
  • Struggling to do things you used to find easy.
  • Feeling confused even in a familiar place.
  • Having problems controlling your mood, or controlling your emotions.

Both the person with dementia and those around them may not even notice the signs or take them seriously for quite some time.

Seeking further advice

If problems like these start to affect your daily life, it is worth sharing your concerns and making an appointment to discuss them with your GP.

If you are worried about someone else, try to encourage them to see their GP. You could offer to go with them for support if they seem a bit reluctant.

Speak to someone at your local Age UK if you need help or support

Further information


Our Information guides are short and easy to digest, giving a comprehensive overview of the relevant topic. Factsheets are longer with more detail, and are aimed at professionals.

You can download other guides in our series from publications

For more information: Call Age UK Advice: 0800 678 1174

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