Dementia is a condition that affects a person’s thinking, their behaviour and their ability to perform everyday tasks.
Over a period of months or years, most people with dementia may gradually:
- lose their memory — at first for recent events, and later for events further back in their lives
- have a personality change
- lose interest in life
- withdraw from their usual activities
- lose their ability to care for themselves and for others around them
Dementia is an umbrella term that describes a collection of symptoms, not one specific disease.
There are more than 100 diseases that may cause dementia. The most common and well known is Alzheimer’s disease. Other forms of dementia include Lewy body disease, vascular dementia, younger onset dementia and frontotemporal dementia.
Dementia is more common in older people, although it can develop in people in their 40s or 50s. Dementia is not a normal part of ageing — most older people do not have dementia.
If you notice signs or symptoms of what may be dementia in yourself, or in a family member or friend, then it’s important to see a doctor.
If you or your family member or friend is diagnosed with dementia, then early diagnosis means early access to support, information and possibly medicines.
Also, there are other conditions, which may be treatable, that produce similar signs and symptoms to dementia. Delaying seeing a doctor may delay effective treatment.
Most cases of dementia are not inherited, although it depends on the cause. If you are worried about your risk of inheriting dementia, you can talk to your doctor or call Dementia Australia on 1800 100 500 and speak to a counsellor.
Expert advice - what is dementia?
Dementia gradually gets worse over time and is more common in older people. Learn more from an expert about how to recognise dementia.
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Last reviewed: October 2018