What is Dementia?
Dementia is not a normal part of ageing. Whilst most people with dementia are older, most older people do not get dementia. Dementia is more common after the age of 65 years, however, people in their 40s and 50s can also have dementia and it can occur in people even younger than this (although this is rare).
How do I know if it is dementia?
There are a number of conditions that produce symptoms similar to dementia, including depression, medication clashes or overmedication, urinary tract infections, some vitamin and hormone deficiencies, some viruses/infections and brain tumours. By treating these conditions, the symptoms may well disappear.
We advise that you get a medical diagnosis when symptoms first appear. This will ensure that a person who has a treatable condition is diagnosed and treated correctly. An early diagnosis will mean early access to support, information, and medication should it be available.
Who diagnoses dementia?
Dementia will usually be diagnosed by a specialist doctor such as:
- a psychiatrist – a mental health specialist,
- a geriatrician – a doctor specialising in the physical health of older people,
- a neurologist – someone who concentrates on diseases of the nervous system.
Occasionally a GP or specialist nurse will make the diagnosis, depending on their expertise and training.
In Jersey the usual route is via an initial consultation with your GP who will then refer you to the Memory Assessment Service at Overdale. This is a multi-disciplinary team made up of specialist support workers, nurses, occupational therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists.
Can dementia be inherited?
This will depend on the cause of the dementia, so it is important to have a firm medical diagnosis. If there are concerns about the risk of inheriting dementia, consult your doctor or contact Jersey Alzheimer’s Association. Most cases of dementia are not inherited.
What are the early signs of dementia?
The early signs of dementia are very subtle and vague and may not be immediately obvious. Some common symptoms may include:
• Progressive and frequent memory loss and repetition
• Personality change
• Apathy and withdrawal
• Loss of ability to perform everyday tasks
What can be done to help?
At present there is no cure for dementia but there are ways of reducing the risks and different medications have been found to reduce some symptoms. Support is vital for people with dementia and the help of families, friends and carers can make a positive difference to managing the condition.
Did you know?
Lack of knowledge about dementia leads to inaccurate assumptions about its effects on the person and their family and negative stereotypes about how a person with dementia will behave.