Dementia FAQ

What is the difference between dementia and alzheimer’s?

According to the Alzheimer’s Society, Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disease caused by brain changes and then cell death, while dementia is not a specific brain disease but a general term for symptoms of impairment in basic brain functions such as thinking, memory, and reasoning.1,2

What is the main cause of dementia?

Alzheimer’s is one of the main causes of dementia. The CDC records Alzheimer’s disease as the cause of 60-80% of cases of dementia. Other causes include age, trauma to the head, family history, previous experience of depression, poor heart health, medication side effects, and metabolism problems ranging from diabetes and obesity.2,3,4

What are the types of dementia?

  • Alzheimer’s disease is characterised by a very subtle onset that gets worse slowly. It is caused by a clump in beta-amyloid protein between nerve cells. The beta-amyloid protein helps fight infections, repair leaks in the blood-brain barrier, and help in neural growth. Alzheimer’s primarily affects older people over 65r, but there have been recorded cases in younger people.2,4
  • Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia, accounting for about 20% of dementia cases. It is caused by serious oxygen deprivation. Stroke is a common cause of vascular dementia. It can co-occur with Alzheimer’s Disease or another type of dementia, which is often called mixed dementia.1,2
  • Lewy body dementia is associated with protein abnormalities, which are called Lewy bodies or alpha-synuclein, formed in the brain leading to the death of nerve cells. Lewy body dementia accounts for about 5-15% of dementia cases, and it typically affects memory, reasoning, and movement.4,5
  • Frontotemporal dementia is when the language skills and personality of someone with dementia are also affected, and it is often known as frontotemporal dementia. It can affect people at a younger age, between 40-75, and does not affect their ability to recognise familiar people or things.4,6

What are the 5 early signs of dementia?

The five early signs of dementia are usually gradual, progressive, and persistent. They start slowly and get worse as time progresses. The signs depend on what type of dementia it is and what the causes are. Do look out for the following signs:

  • Memory loss
  • Inability to perform regular daily tasks
  • Inability to recognize objects
  • A breakage in communication and language
  • Deterioration in reasoning, planning, and judgement.4

How can dementia be confirmed?

If you suspect you or your loved one may be having an onset of dementia, you can talk to your healthcare provider who will be able to provide more advice taking your medical history into consideration. If required, they can also carry out a couple of assessments to examine your problem-solving and logical abilities, attention span, and whether there is a memory decline.3,4

They may also carry out blood tests and have your brain scanned using neuroimaging tools such as a CT or MRI to detect any symptoms you might be having or to rule out the diagnosis of dementia.4 

What happens at the start of dementia?

At the start of dementia, the signs of dementia are not obvious, which is often diagnosed as having Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). People may still be able to carry out essential daily activities; however, it can get more and more difficult to remember new information, and this is because the part of the brain which accounts for learning is affected. It is common for people to dismiss the memory decline and think they are just being forgetful. However, as time goes by, the forgetfulness does not go away but starts getting worse.2,4 If your loved one is experiencing memory loss, they might have a hard time accepting their memory decline and try to cover it up.

For people with dementia, it may also take longer to think of and perform some small, simple tasks that people used to do every day. They can be wandering or lost in familiar places, and they may also start experiencing difficulty in finding the right words to say or remembering words and changes in mood; their visual perception may also be affected and may find it difficult to determine the size, heights, and distances of objects.7

When should a dementia patient go into care?

People with dementia would be advised to go into care when they can no longer carry out basic tasks like eating, having a bath, and dressing.8 This is the later stage of dementia when people may also display behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD), including:

  • Being aggressive, which may be a result of their unmet needs, lack of words to communicate and feeling confused, scared, or threatened. 
  • Depression and apathy (lack of interest) are also more pronounced in this stage. One might experience delusion, hallucinations, hearing strange voices, or seeing things that are not there. Hallucinations can also affect the senses of smell and touch.8,9
  • Physical changes that put you at risk for infection. These changes include walking less steadily, frequent falls, losing control of their bladder and bowel, or having difficulty swallowing or eating. 

They may lose track of time, which is known as time-shifting. They might believe they are at another early stage of their life. They may also become unable to recognize family and close friends, and eventually, unable to recognize themselves in the mirror. A person in this stage of dementia will lose their language abilities. If multilingual, the native language may become the only language they remember.8

How can I help a family member with dementia?

It would be really helpful to provide emotional support to your loved ones who are experiencing symptoms of dementia. Helping someone with dementia is rather challenging due to the complexity of the disease, and the limited treatment options available. Try to talk to your family member about how they feel, their symptoms, and what they would like to do and take notes of it so you can keep their healthcare provider updated on any changes.3,4

Can dementia be treated with medication?

Alzheimer's dementia cannot be treated with medication, but its symptoms, such as inflammation, can be managed to protect the brain.10 Other forms of dementia are treatable depending on what stage it is in and the underlying cause.

What part of the brain is damaged in dementia?

As explained in an article by the Alzheimer's Society, the cerebral cortex, a thin layer of cells covering the brain, is where the damage occurs in dementia. The cerebral cortex is responsible for memory processing, language, reasoning, decision-making, and social skills. The type of dementia determines what part of the cerebral cortex is affected.11

  • Temporal lobes are where the hippocampus is located. Damage to the hippocampus can lead to memory loss and difficulty in learning new things. It often leads to Alzheimer’s.
  • Prenatal lobes are responsible for motor control and reasoning.
  • Frontal lobes are often damaged in Frontotemporal dementia. These lobes are responsible for learning and memory. Damage to this area can result in problems in maintaining attention or multitasking.

Can your brain recover from dementia?

Yes, your brain can recover from dementia if it was caused by side effects of medication, vitamin deficiency, increased pressure in the brain, and thyroid hormone imbalance.3


  1. What Is the Difference between Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease? | Alzheimer’s Society. Accessed 22 Sept. 2022.
  2. Kumar, Anil, et al. “Alzheimer Disease.” StatPearls, StatPearls Publishing, 2022. PubMed,
  3. What Is Dementia? | CDC. 19 Dec. 2019,
  4. Duong, Silvia, et al. “Dementia.” Canadian Pharmacists Journal : CPJ, vol. 150, no. 2, Feb. 2017, pp. 118–29. PubMed Central,
  5. “What Is Lewy Body Dementia? Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments.” National Institute on Aging, Accessed 22 Sept. 2022.
  6. “Frontotemporal Dementia.” Nhs.Uk, 20 Oct. 2017,
  7. Early-Stage Signs and Symptoms of Dementia | Alzheimer’s Society. Accessed 22 Sept. 2022.
  8. The Later Stage of Dementia | Alzheimer’s Society. Accessed 22 Sept. 2022.
  9. Gottesman, Reena T., and Yaakov Stern. “Behavioral and Psychiatric Symptoms of Dementia and Rate of Decline in Alzheimer’s Disease.” Frontiers in Pharmacology, vol. 10, 2019. Frontiers,
  10. Lee, Jong-hoon, et al. “Recovery of Dementia Syndrome Following Treatment of Brain Inflammation.” Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders Extra, vol. 10, no. 1, 2020, pp. 1–12.,
  11. Understanding Parts of the Brain | Alzheimer’s Society. Accessed 22 Sept. 2022.

Chimezirim Ozonyiri

Bachelor of Science - BS, Microbiology, General, Tansian University, Nigeria

Chimezirim has several years of experience in the healthcare, non-profit, and education sectors. She is passionate about health promotion and began her journey into health and lifestyle writing over two years ago. 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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