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It may begin with forgetting where you left your car keys and can eventually lead to potentially dangerous situations such as forgetting to switch off the heater or kitchen stove.

Last updated: August 23rd 2021
Older man looking confused.
Memory loss experienced from dementia is different from ‘normal’ forgetfulness. (Source: Shutterstock)

Key points:

  • Dementia is not a normal part of ageing

  • Forgetfulness isn't what dementia is even though it is commonly perceived as so by the public

  • There is no cure for dementia, however, scientists have been getting closer to understanding why dementia occurs

This is a very real experience for more than 459,000 Australians living with dementia right now. With Australia’s population rapidly ageing, the prevalence of dementia is expected to increase to 590,000 by 2028.

According to figures released by Dementia Australia, there are nearly 1,800 new cases of dementia in Australia each week.

That’s about one person every six minutes.

What is dementia?

Dementia affects a person’s mental ability and causes them to ‘forget’ things and experience problems, such as:

  • Remembering birthdays, names and the day or year
  • Speaking or writing
  • Misplacing where you left your medication or other items
  • Becoming angry or agitated

Types of dementia

There are more types of dementia than you may think. Some of the main types include:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
    The most common type of dementia, Alzheimer's disease is a degeneration of the brain leading to problems with memory, thinking skills and performing daily tasks.
  • Vascular dementia
    Impaired supply of blood to the brain, causes a series of small strokes which, over time, contribute to a gradual mental decline.
  • Lewy body disease
    Accumulation of abnormal microscopic protein deposits in the brain, leading to problems with attention and alertness, hallucinations and tremors.
  • Frontotemporal dementia
    Damage to the right and left frontal lobes (front of the brain), resulting in deterioration in behaviour, personality, language disturbances, or alterations in muscle or motor functions.
  • Huntington’s disease
    Brain cells slowly die causing problems with movement, coordination, communication, thinking and memory.
  • Alcohol related dementia
    Due to excessive alcohol consumption affecting memory, learning and other mental functions.

Answers from people living with dementia

Hear about dementia straight from the people living with it in this great video series from Dementia Australia:

What annoys you most about living with dementia?

Just forgetful, or do I have dementia?

Everyone becomes forgetful from time to time. But when does an ordinary memory lapse indicate something more serious?

Memory loss experienced from dementia is different from ‘normal’ forgetfulness.

An example of ‘normal’ forgetfulness, according to Dementia Australia, is misplacing the car keys, while dementia memory loss is like forgetting what your car keys are used for.

Keys outside car
Misplacing keys isn't an indicator of dementia, but forgetting what they keys are used for is a indicator of dementia. [Source: iStock]

Early signs of dementia

One of the most common early signs of dementia can be memory loss but symptoms, whether obvious or subtle, vary for each person.

Other signs of dementia may include:

  • Loss of ability to go shopping, gardening or perform personal grooming
  • Reduced concentration
  • Personality or behaviour changes
  • Wanting to be alone and away from loved ones

These are just a few of the possible ‘early’ indicators that something might not be ‘right’.

Remember: Only your local doctor will be able to properly diagnose dementia.

Did you know: According to Dementia Australia, on average, symptoms of dementia are noticed by families three years before a proper diagnosis is made.

Wanted: A cure or prevention

There is currently no cure for dementia.

The onset of the neurological disease cannot yet be stopped or reversed.

For years, researchers across the world have been investigating ways to cure dementia.

While we wait for that historic moment:

being diagnosed with dementia early on can help you plan for the future.

Younger woman concerned
Younger Onset Dementia affects people under the age of 65. [Source: iStock]

I'm ‘too young' to have dementia

The term ‘younger onset dementia’ describes dementia diagnosed in people of any age under 65 years. The latest Dementia Australia figures reveal younger onset dementia affects about 27,800 Australians.

While this statistic is worrying, many more people are diagnosed with dementia after the age of 65 years.

But regardless of how old you are, it’s important to know memory loss and dementia is not a normal part of ageing.

Find out more about younger onset dementia at Dementia Australia.

So, who can help?

Dementia Australia can provide support services, education and information, as well as assisting carers and families to manage the daily challenges that dementia brings.

Find the support you need through initiatives such as the National Dementia Helpline, call 1800 100 500.

Living at home with dementia

More and more people continue to live at home with dementia.

Sometimes it can be challenging, but it’s important not to treat people living with dementia in their home as ‘incapable’ of living life.

They say there’s no place like home.

So helping a person remain in the familiar surroundings of their home for as long as possible, whether living with dementia or not, is important.

Elderly couple enjoying food at the table
Living in a familiar and comfortable place can be incredibly helpful for a person with dementia. [Source: iStock]

If you or a loved one lives at home with dementia, there are people whose job involves reminding you to:

  • Eat or take prescribed medication
  • Bathe daily
  • Switch off appliances such as the kitchen stove or heater
  • Feed or care for pets

Living at home while receiving assistance is made possible with Home Care Services or Packages.

Learn more about Home Care Packages.

Living in aged care homes with dementia

Many aged care homes offer full support to people living with dementia.

Some of these homes have separate dementia wings, or sections, and may be described as Dementia-specific.

Most of these homes have activities to help keep people with dementia engaged which you’ll see demonstrated in the video below:

Purposeful and engaging activities for people with Dementia - Alzheimer's Australia VIC

Find aged care homes catering for a specific dementia on the Aged Care Guide.

What worries you most about dementia? Tell us in the comments below.

Related content:

Dementia behaviour changes and challenges
The link between dementia and depression
Introduction to nursing homes


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