What is dementia?
Some memory loss is common as we get older. However memory loss can also be an early sign of an illness called dementia. Dementia is a decline of reasoning, memory and other mental abilities (the cognitive functions). This decline eventually impairs the ability to carry out everyday activities such as driving, household chores and even personal care such as bathing, dressing and feeding (often called activities of daily living, or ADLs).
Dementia is most common in elderly people; it used to be called senility and was considered a normal part of ageing. We now know that dementia is not a normal part of ageing, but is caused by a number of underlying medical conditions that can occur in both elderly and younger persons.
In some cases dementia can be reversed with proper medical treatment. In others, it is permanent and usually gets worse over time.
Facts and figures about dementia
- The Alzheimer's Society estimates that dementia currently affects over 750,000 people in the UK, which will rise to more than a million by 2025. Over 18,000 people with dementia are aged under 65 years. Dementia affects one person in 20 aged over 65, and one person in five aged 80
- There are about 14,000 people with dementia among the minority ethnic communities. However, many services for these people remain inappropriate and inaccessible.