Understanding dementia

Dementia affects people in different ways, depending on the type of dementia. The impact can be physical, emotional and psychological, and can also profoundly change the practicalities of everyday life. Use the links below to find out more about the different types of dementia and check out our range of information leaflets.

What is dementia?

Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of progressive neurological disorders, that is, conditions affecting the brain. There are many different types of dementia, of which Alzheimer’s disease is the most common. Some people may have a combination of types of dementia. Regardless of which type is diagnosed, each person will experience their dementia in their own unique way.

Read more about the symptoms of dementia >

Dementia in the UK
Dementia is a global concern but it is most often seen in wealthier countries, where people are likely to live into very old age. The Alzheimer’s Society (2015) reports there are over 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK today. Of these, approximately, 42,000 are people with young onset dementia, which affects people under the age of 65. As a person’s age increases, so does the risk of them developing dementia. It is estimated that the number of people living with dementia in the UK by 2025 will rise to over 1 million. Rates of diagnosis are improving but many people with dementia are thought to still be undiagnosed.

Types of dementia

Alzheimer's disease

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia (around 60% of diagnoses), although comparatively rare for under-65s. It’s thought to be caused by abnormal amounts of proteins in the brain that create plaques and tangles that interfere with and damage nerve cells.

Read more about Alzheimer’s disease >

Vascular dementia

Vascular dementia is the second most common form of dementia in the over-65 age group. It’s an umbrella term for a group of conditions caused by problems with blood circulation to the brain. Causes can range from small blood clots, to blocked arteries, to burst blood vessels.

Read more about vascular dementia >

Frontotemporal dementia

Frontotemporal dementia is the second most common form of dementia for under-65s. It is a group of conditions caused by the death of nerve cells and pathways in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain.

Read more about frontotemporal dementia >

Getting a diagnosis of dementia

If you or someone close to you is experiencing problems with memory, confusion or changes in behaviour, it is important that you consult your GP as soon as possible. Diagnosis may seem scary or overwhelming, but there are many benefits to getting one sooner rather than later. The symptoms may not be caused by dementia at all, but if they are, then early access to advice and care can make a huge difference.

If your GP is unable to make a diagnosis or refer you to a Memory Service or Clinic, or if going to a GP is difficult for you, you can speak to one of our Admiral Nurses on our Dementia Helpline (0800 888 6678) and we’ll take time to listen, understand and give you the expert support you need.

Read more about getting a diagnosis of dementia >

Download our information sheet

How an Admiral Nurse can help

Admiral Nurses provide specialist dementia support and are a lifeline to thousands of families dealing with dementia every day.

Either face to face, or on the end of our Dementia Helpline, an Admiral Nurse has both the experience and expertise to answer even the most challenging questions as well as offer practical solutions that can make all the difference when living with dementia.

Find out more about our Admiral Nurse service >

Key questions answered

I’m exhausted after looking after my husband for 8 years, and feel I can’t carry on. What can I do?

Eight years is a long time to look after a person with dementia. Caring is emotionally and physically draining but asking for help can be extremely hard and may feel like a betrayal. However, there is help available – you could join a carer’s group, or for more individual support, you could reach out to one of our Admiral Nurses.

Read more about carer exhaustion >

My husband sleeps all day, and then he is up walking around all night. Is there anything I can do?

Disrupted sleep or change in sleep pattern is fairly common with dementia. However, a regular sleep pattern is essential for your husband, and for you. As with meal times, try to keep a regular sleep routine; the same time to bed at night, and the same time getting up each day. As far as possible, try to discourage daytime naps.

Read more about managing disrupted sleep >

My wife’s memory loss seems to be getting worse. What should I be doing to support her?

Understanding a little about the type of dementia your wife has will help you come up with strategies for both coping with the memory loss, and maintaining her emotional well-being. Good sources for finding out more about dementia are your local carers’ groups, the library and the NHS Choices website.

Read more about managing memory loss >