Memory Problems and Dementia

What is it?

Dementia is a word used to describe a group of symptoms such as a gradual loss of memory

  • Difficulties in thinking and planning.
  • Difficulties with problems solving.
  • Changes to behaviour and mood.
  • Loss of skills needed to carry out everyday tasks.

What causes it?

It's not a natural part of aging.  It is caused by a range of diseases that affect the brain.  The two most common causes are

  • Alzheimer disease.
  • Vascular dementia caused by damage to the blood supply to the brain.  It can be caused by strokes or reduced blood supply to parts of the brain.

Is there a cure?

Dementia is a progressive disease.  Currently there is no cure.  However there are some drugs and therapies available which slow the progress for some people.

What should I do if I am worried about someone's memory?

It is important that the person who has memory problems is seen by their doctor.  It is also important if you can go to the doctor with them so you can explain to the doctor the changes that you have seen.

It's not always dementia!

Problems with memory, mood or thinking are not necessarily caused by dementia.  Some of the following may cause similar symptoms:

  • Chest and urinary infection, severe constipation.
  • Depression.
  • Side effects of some drugs.
  • Sudden upsets such as a bereavement, or moving home.

Diagnosing Dementia

There are a number of steps:

  • Arrange for the person to see their GP.
  • Attend the appointment with them to support them and inform the GP about what you have seen.
  • The GP will carry out mental and physical tests including blood tests and will arrange a scan and refer you on to the memory clinic.
  • The memory clinic carries out a full mental test.
  • All this information will then be passed to a consultant psychiatrist in the memory clinic.
  • The Consultant sends an invitation to a clinic appointment where they will make a diagnosis and arranges follow-up by the clinic and, if appropriate, start treatment.  They may refer to other services.  They will also send all the results to the GP.
  • All the information will then be passed to a consultant psychiatrist in the memory clinic.

To view the directory of services relating to Dementia click here.