Updated: Jan 27, 2022
[Photo credit: Alzheimer’s Association]
When the word “dementia” pops up in conversation, one primary thought may flow through your head: old age. Your grandma may forget the name of her favorite restaurant, or your grandfather may not recall where he met an old friend.
The way that dementia has been portrayed in the media is omnipresent―a natural result of the aging process. But it isn’t a natural part of aging, it’s a genuine neurological problem. Forgetting names and faces is normal for a person of any age, and it grows more prominent as one reaches the elderly part of their life. The distinction between normal forgetfulness and neurological dementia is often disregarded, despite the importance that such distinction withholds.
As opposed to being a single neurological disorder with one specific cause, dementia is defined as, “...a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking, and social abilities severely enough to interfere with your daily life” (Mayo Clinic 2020). The fact that the symptoms one experiences must affect their ability to properly live their life is an extremely important factor characterizing dementia. As stated earlier, memory loss isn’t the only symptom of dementia, and it certainly doesn’t single-handedly define the disorder. (Mayo Clinic 2020).
There are several different types of dementia, with Alzheimer’s disease making up approximately 60-80% of cases according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Alzheimer’s, along with other types of dementia including vascular dementia and Parkinson’s, is caused by brain cell damage that makes neuron communication challenging. This may affect important daily functions, including the abilities to normally think, communicate, and feel emotions. Different regions of the brain control these different functions, hence why having a form of dementia doesn’t necessarily result in a loss of each. Although many of the dementia-causing factors grow to be progressively worse as time goes on, problems with memory and thinking may lessen with medication (Alzheimer’s Association 2019).
It’s important to remember that a dementia diagnosis doesn’t automatically mean a terrible life is ahead. Sudden thinking and behavioural disadvantages are frustrating and can certainly pose an existential challenge―but there are ways to still live a great life with dementia. The National Health Service UK suggests that, in order to continue living a great life after a dementia diagnosis, one should keep up with a good social life, as keeping in touch with loved ones is always substantial in order to stay in a good mental state. Many movie theaters put together film screenings that are dementia-friendly. Lots of leisure activities are dementia-friendly as well, including swimming sessions and community centers. Secondly, keeping loved ones informed about one’s dementia diagnosis is a great thing to do so others know how to best support them. Health is always a priority, so it should be taken as such as well (National Health Service UK 2018).
Dementia is much different than the ways by which it may be displayed in the media. It’s substantial to understand the true causes and effects of the group of disorders in order to best support someone facing it.
Alzheimer’s Association writers. What Is Dementia? Alzheimer’s Association, 2019.
Mayo Clinic writers. Dementia. Mayo Clinic, 2020.
National History Service writers. Living well with dementia. National History Service UK, 2018.