Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Early diagnosis of dementia means early access to support, information and possibly medicines.

Early diagnosis of dementia means early access to support, information and possibly medicines.
beginning of content

Dementia – an overview

2-minute read

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.

Read the related video transcript

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: October 2018

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Causes of dementia | Dementia Australia

*/ /*-->*/ There is still much to learn about what causes dementia. There are many different types of dementia and the cause varies with type. The information below provides details of some of the major research areas. 

Read more on Dementia Australia website

What is good care? | Dementia Australia

Important aspects of good care An effective approach to care Culturally appropriate care Involvement of relatives and friends Effective pain management Using minimal restraint

Read more on Dementia Australia website

HIV associated dementia | Dementia Australia

What is HIV associated dementia?  When someone has the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) they may develop a complication to the disease which is known as HIV associated dementia, or as AIDS Dementia Complex (ADC).

Read more on Dementia Australia website

Mild Cognitive Impairment | Dementia Australia

Memory loss has long been accepted as a normal part of ageing. Recently there has been increasing recognition that some people experience a level of memory loss greater than that usually experienced with ageing, but without other signs of dementia. This has been termed Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). As MCI has only recently been defined, there is limited research on it and there is much that we do not yet understand.

Read more on Dementia Australia website

Genetics of dementia | Dementia Australia

People affected by dementia are often concerned about whether the condition can be passed along in families. Here we discuss the role of heredity in Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Read more on Dementia Australia website

Memory changes | Dementia Australia

There is a difference between memory loss as a part of normal ageing and as a symptom of dementia. This information describes those differences and provides some tips on keeping your memory sharp. One of the main symptoms of dementia is memory loss.

Read more on Dementia Australia website

Early diagnosis of dementia | Dementia Australia

The importance of early diagnosis of dementia and information about the diagnosis process. This information may be helpful to people who have concerns about dementia or to those who are concerned about their family members or friends.

Read more on Dementia Australia website

Dementia | SA Health

Dementia affects short-term memory and loss of other mental faculties caused by disease such as Alzheimer’s or strokes. Find a dementia memory clinic.

Read more on SA Health website

Make a will | Dementia Australia

A Will is a legal document in which you specify who will inherit your assets when you die. If you die without a Will, your assets will be divided up according to a formula set by the Government. This may not be in line with what you would have wanted. It is also a slow and complicated process, which is stressful for family who have to deal with this. 

Read more on Dementia Australia website

Overcoming barriers to having a difficult conversation | Dementia Australia

There are a number of barriers that can make it difficult to start conversations about planning ahead. It is helpful to be aware of these barriers so that you can find ways to get around them. Some of these include: 

Read more on Dementia Australia website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo