What is dementia?

Dementia is a term used to describe a loss of memory, problem-solving, language, and other cognitive abilities that is severe enough to interfere with someone’s daily life. Dementia is not a single disease but instead a general term used to describe a range of medical conditions that damage brain cells and cause abnormal brain changes.

Different types of dementia include:

  • Alzheimer’s
  • Lewy body
  • Vascular
  • Frontotemporal
  • Mixed dementia

While these diseases damage brain cells in different ways, the damages they cause all interfere with the ability of brain cells to communicate with each other.

The signs and symptoms of dementia can vary significantly from person to person, but some examples include problems with:

  • paying bills
  • short-term memory
  • keeping track of possessions (e.g., purse or wallet)
  • traveling out of the neighborhood
  • remembering appointments
  • planning and preparing meals

Most causes of dementia are progressive, meaning the signs begin slowly and gradually worsen. Some dementia patients benefit from care in assisted living facilities.

How does dementia impact healthcare?

Most types of progressive dementia, such as Alzheimer’s, do not have a cure. Instead, treatment of this type of dementia focuses on reducing cognitive and functional decline and temporarily slowing the progression of dementia symptoms.

Research efforts and clinical trials are continually evolving in search of a cure or better treatment method.