Dementia is the broad term used to describe a number of different conditions affecting the brain. These are the most common types of dementia.
Over 900,000 people are estimated to be living with dementia in the UK, and someone develops the condition every three minutes.
Dementia causes changes in memory, thinking, personality and behaviour, but symptoms vary depending on which type the person has. Understanding the various types of dementia means people can get the right support to help them live better with the condition.
Although dementia has a common set of symptoms, each type presents itself differently, and people may have some or all of the symptoms. They may also have more than one type of dementia (‘mixed dementia’), with symptoms of each. Learn more about the symptoms of dementia.
Start by making an appointment with the person’s GP
It’s a good idea to keep a symptom diary or notes of any changes you see – this will help the GP build a picture of what’s going on
The GP should do some physical health checks, including checking the person’s blood pressure and heart rate, and ordering blood tests. They may also conduct a short assessment of memory and thinking skills
If the GP suspects the person has dementia, they should refer them to a specialist – usually a memory clinic
The specialist will conduct a more detailed assessment and may arrange a brain scan
If dementia is diagnosed, the person should be told what type they have, what happens next, and what they can do to live well with the condition
Keep in mind that waiting lists for memory assessments can be long, and that the person may need a series of appointments before getting a diagnosis
Take a look at the person’s home to identify any risks, such as slippery surfaces, loose rugs or trailing wires that could be tripped over, or electric heaters that could be left on. Removing hazards will help the person live independently for as long as possible
Make sure the person takes any medication as prescribed and has regular sight and hearing checks – difficulties seeing or hearing can worsen dementia symptoms
Compiling a ‘life story’ is a good way to record information about the person with dementia, including personal details, information about their past, likes and dislikes, important people in their life, and so on. This can prompt reminiscence and help health and social care professionals learn more about them. See our guidance and life story template here
Encourage the person to continue with activities that they enjoy, eg music, exercise, gardening or art. Read more information on meaningful activities
Eating healthily and being physically active can help to improve the symptoms of dementia and boost the person’s wellbeing
If the person drives, they must inform the DVLA (DVA in Northern Ireland) of their diagnosis. It doesn’t necessarily mean they will have to stop driving immediately – they may be asked to take a driving assessment or be issued with a shorter driving licence
Look for support groups for people with dementia and their carers – sharing experiences and making new friendships can be very helpful
Take steps to help the person sleep well, such as ensuring that their bedroom is dark, comfortable and the right temperature; limiting caffeine before bed; and restricting daytime naps to 30 to 60 minutes so they are sleepy at bedtime