What is dementia?

Lesley Dobson / 18 January 2016

Learn about dementia symptoms, how they can affect people and how you can help.



Dementia is a term that health professionals use to cover a group of symptoms. These symptoms vary from one person to another, but often include memory loss.

What can I do to help prevent memory loss?

Dementia affects many people over 60, and is known as age-associated memory impairment. If you have this symptom it doesn’t automatically mean that you have dementia, it can simply be an age-related issue.

Related: 6 lesser-known causes of memory loss

Working your brain harder – by doing number puzzles, learning poems off by heart, and doing crosswords - may help improve your memory. However people who have dementia will experience continued and worsening memory problems.

Related: Five ways to supercharge your memory

Where memory is concerned, people who do have dementia often have trouble recalling what they did that day, or earlier in the week.  However they may be able to remember events from a long time ago – when they were teenagers, or just married, for instance.

Symptoms of dementia

Symptoms of dementia can also include problems with thinking, including the speed at which you can think.

Another symptom is a decline in your ability to deal with fairly straightforward problem-solving, or to do something that involves a number of stages, such as cooking a meal.

You may also struggle to find the right words to say what you want to when you’re talking to someone. Having trouble keeping up with a conversation is also a fairly common symptom.

Related: Practical tips to help someone in the early stages of dementia retain independence around the home

Other symptoms can include finding it hard to cope in social situations, and no longer wanting to socialise.

Dementia can also cause personality changes, and affect the way people react to those around them. This can make being with other people, even with close family and friends, more difficult.

Related: Six surprising symptoms of dementia

Does dementia affect people differently?

Dementia isn’t the same for everyone, as we’re all different, and we react to the condition we have in different ways. The symptoms someone with dementia has will depend on the part of their brain that has been affected. And the different types of dementia can affect us differently, particularly in the early stages.

According to the Alzheimer’s Society, how other people respond to the person with dementia (family and friends, for instance), can affect how well that person is able to manage living with the condition. Having supportive people around them, and living in surroundings that make life easier for them, can make a big difference to someone with dementia.

Living with a loved one who is affected by dementia

Dementia symptoms become worse with time. It may be that the person you care for asks the same questions again and again, becomes restless, doesn’t sleep well, and becomes physically weaker, as their condition progresses.

This is hard for the person with dementia, but it’s also hard for the people who love and care for them. While you are supporting them, it’s important that you are supported too. Talk to your GP, and ask social services, about help and support for you.

You may also want to get in touch with the Alzheimer’s Society. Their National Dementia Helpline is 0300 222 1122, and provides support and information.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.