What is Dementia

Dementia is not a normal part of ageing. It is the name for a range of symptoms which cause damage to the brain. This damage causes a decline in cognitive abilities and can affect memory, thinking, language and cause challenges carrying out everyday tasks. Changes are usually small to start with and progress over time. Various factors increase the risk of someone developing dementia. Age, genes, health and lifestyle all play a part. There are many different types of dementia. The most common types are:

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common type of dementia in older people in Ireland. Alzheimer’s can also affect younger adults (aged 30-65) but this is rarer. Alzheimer’s causes changes in the structure of the brain, due to a build-up of abnormal clumps of proteins. This interferes with how the brain works. Alzheimer’s symptoms tend to develop gradually over several years. Early symptoms include; difficulty remembering recent events while having a good memory for past events, having trouble concentrating, planning or organising and difficulty finding the right words.

The Dementia Services Information and Development Centre (DSIDC) have created a leaflet about Alzheimer's Disease you can download here

Vascular Dementia

Vascular Dementia is the second most common type of dementia and it occurs when the blood supply to the brain is restricted because of blood vessel disease or as a result of a stroke or series of mini strokes which often go unnoticed and are called Trans Ischemic Attacks (TIAs). Symptoms of vascular dementia depend on the area of the brain that has been affected. Language, reading, writing and communication can be affected. Memory problems may not be present initially, but may occur later.

The Dementia Services Information and Development Centre (DSIDC) have created a leaflet about Vascular Dementia you can download here

Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB)

DLB is caused by a build-up of abnormal proteins that cause cell damage. Dementia with Lewy bodies is often associated with Parkinson’s disease and shares similar symptoms. Muscle movement is affected causing difficulty with balance leading to frequent falls. Other symptoms include muscle rigidity and hallucinations. Memory is often less affected than with other types of dementia, but somebody with DLB might experience sudden bouts of confusion. Sleep can be disrupted leading the person to fall asleep easily during the day.

The Dementia Services Information and Development Centre (DSIDC) have created a booklet about Dementia with Lewy Body you can download here

Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD)

FTD is more common in younger people (45-65) but can also develop in older individuals. It occurs when nerve cells in the brain die and the nerve pathways are damaged in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. Frontotemporal dementia affects a different part of the brain to Alzheimer’s and therefore causes different symptoms. Unlike other forms of dementia, it usually doesn’t cause memory problems at first so it can be difficult to diagnose. Behaviour and personality changes are often the first, most notable, symptom and for this reason it can often be mistaken for depression at first. Difficulties with language (slow, hesitant speech) or vocabulary (trouble remembering everyday words) is another early sign that something is wrong.

Young Onset Dementia

Young Onset Dementia is when a person develops any type of dementia before the age of 65. It can be difficult to diagnose as doctors don’t usually suspect dementia in younger people. Genetics may have a role in its development, but it is important to point out that not all cases of young onset dementia are thought to be inherited. Symptoms are similar to those experienced by people over the age of 65.