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Dementia awareness

Holding handsWhat is dementia?

Dementia is not a single illness but a group of symptoms caused by damage to the brain. The symptoms include:

  • short-term memory loss, such as remembering past events much more easily than recent ones or finding it hard to follow conversations or TV programmes
  • problems thinking or reasoning
  • feeling anxious, depressed or angry about memory loss
  • feeling confused, even when in a familiar environment.

Dementia is caused by a number of diseases of the brain, the most common of which is Alzheimer’s disease. Vascular dementia is the second most common cause. High blood pressure, heart problems, high cholesterol and diabetes can increase the chances of developing vascular dementia so it’s important that these conditions are identified and treated at the earliest opportunity.

What do I do if I think someone may have dementia?

Take steps to get help when if you are worried about someone’s memory.

Step 1 Plan a conversation in a familiar, non-threatening environment.

Step 2 Explain why talking about it is important. Explain that you are worried because you care.

Step 3 Use examples to make things clearer. It's important to be careful not to create a sense of 'blame'. For example, instead of telling someone they can’t make a cup of tea you could suggest they seem to find it difficult to make tea.

Step 4 Have an open conversation where you are honest and direct. Ask how they are feeling about their memory.

UNISON and the Open University organise one day CPD Dementia Awareness sessions across the country. Contact your regional education team for more information 

Learn more about dementia

Investigate dementia and what happens to the brain in the Open Learn  

Take the OpenLearn unit on ageing and disability, Transitions into residential care

Further information on dementia awareness

Find out more about the symptoms and diagnosis of dementia The Alzheimer’s Society and download free fact sheets.

Find explanations of the condition and real life stories about experiences of carers at The NHS direct website.