Dementia And Mental Health

What is dementia?

Rather than a singular disease, ‘dementia’ is the name given to a collection of related conditions. It is associated with a continuous decline in brain function, impaired thinking, and difficulties in making daily decisions. Common types of dementia include Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia.

Dementia tends to affect older people (although there are cases of early onset), with an estimated 5 million adults over 65 in 2014 with dementia. This is on the rise due to an ageing population.

Despite usually affecting older adults, dementia is not a normal part of ageing. Normal age-related memory changes may include:

  • Sometimes misplacing objects such as keys
  • Slow word retrieval or remembering the word later
  • Forgetting an acquaintance’s name
  • Forgetting recent events

Old memories, language and knowledge known for a long time or built over years tend to stay intact (anterograde amnesia). 1

Symptoms of dementia

Individuals with dementia may not have all of the symptoms listed below but tend to exhibit several, such as

  • Memory loss
  • Delayed thoughts
  • Loss of mental sharpness and quickness
  • Trouble speaking or incorrect use of words
  • Problems with understanding and judgment 
  • Mood changes
  • Movement difficulties
  • Difficulties in daily activities 
  • Loss of interest in hobbies 
  • Difficulties with social situations and relationships 2

Mental health at early stages of dementia

Depression and anxiety at some level tend to be common for individuals with dementia, especially during the early stages. This is because they are usually aware of the decline in their cognitive functions. This can create a sort of panic or frustration due to the loss of their independence, inability to recall things or other symptoms they may be suffering. 

At this stage, it is important for those around them to:

  • Listen and try to understand their troubles if they are able to talk about them. It’s important that they feel listened to and you do not brush aside their concerns.
  • Offer them support and reassurance. 
  • Make sure they know they are surrounded by supportive loved ones.
  • Seek help from your GP or other healthcare professionals if the individual faces extreme anxiety or depression. 3

Caring for a loved one with dementia

There are many aspects of caring for a loved one with dementia, such as everyday care, a healthy and active lifestyle and home safety. Below are some tips for improving their behaviour and communication:

  • Offer reassurance when they voice their concerns or frustrations. Try and show that you understand them.
  • Allow the individual as much autonomy in their life as possible.
  • Respect their personal space.
  • Keep sentimental objects and photos around the house to give them a sense of security and well-being.
  • Avoid phrases such as ‘don’t you remember?’ as they may increase frustration at their inability to recall. 
  • Encourage conversation in which they remain engaged - allow them a chance to speak and keep it a 2-way thing.
  • If you’re struggling to communicate with words, try using familiar things instead, such as a favourite book or photo album.

Taking care of yourself as a caregiver

Although it can be extremely rewarding, being a caregiver can sometimes be physically and emotionally overwhelming. Caring for a loved one with dementia takes time and effort, and can sometimes be quite lovely or painful and frustrating for caregivers. 

It’s important to take care of yourself in order to care well for your loved ones 

Below are some tips that may help you out:

  • Ask for help when you need it; maybe ask friends or family for support or reach out to local services. 
  • Keep a good, balanced diet and take regular exercise - keeping yourself healthy and active keeps you feeling well.
  • Join a support group for caregivers (available online or in person). It allows you to connect with other people going through similar experiences. It gives you a chance to share stories and tips and perhaps makes you feel less isolated.
  • Take breaks each day - keep a small fraction of the day for yourself, even if it’s just making a cup of tea.
  • Spend time with friends or doing things you love too; hobbies and activities.
  • Consider seeking help from mental health professionals to help with the stress or anxiety you may face as a caregiver. 4


Dementia describes the symptoms of a decline in cognitive brain function and is not a normal part of ageing. It causes impairments in thinking, making decisions and difficulty in daily living. Individuals face different combinations of symptoms depending on the type of dementia they have and the stage they are in. They tend to show memory loss, mood changes, and loss of interest or understanding. Depression and anxiety are quite common, particularly in the early stages of dementia, as the individuals are aware of the cognitive decline, creating a sense of panic or frustration. 

As a caregiver, it is important to allow individuals to feel understood and reassured by letting them voice their frustrations and concerns. However, as a caregiver, it’s also important to look after yourself, as it can be overwhelming. 


  1. What is Dementia? [Internet]. CDC. 2019. Available from:
  2. About dementia [Internet]. 2020. Available from:
  3. Mental well-being and depression in dementia [Internet]. Alzheimer's Society. Available from:
  4. Tips for Caregivers and Families of People With Dementia [Internet]. Available from:

Aisha Yasin

Biomedical Science - Biomedical Sciences, General, Lancaster University, England

"I am a recent biomedical science graduate, with ambitions to go on to do post-graduate medicine. During my biomedical science degree I have done a variety of modules including anatomy, physiology, clinical biochemistry and many more... Currently working as a healthcare assistant for P&O Cruises" presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
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