Dementia care and support

Sources of help and support

A dementia diagnosis can come as a shock to the person with the condition and those around them. However, there are sources of help and support for everyone involved. It’s natural to worry about the future, but it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. The NHS, social services and voluntary organisations can provide advice and support.

Get a needs assessment

Following a diagnosis of dementia, one of the first steps to take is to get a health and social care assessment. This assessment is how a person with dementia, and the person or people looking after them, gets help and support from their local authority’s social services department. The assessment is carried out by social services to find out what help and support you need – such as healthcare, equipment, care services in your home, or a stay in a care home.

Read more about what to expect from the NHS and social services.

Care options for people with dementia

Many people with dementia stay in their own home if they have adequate support, either from family carers, community nurses or paid care workers. Being in familiar surroundings can help people cope better with their condition.

Read about care at home and find out about small adjustments to the home that can help people with dementia.

Many people with dementia will eventually need support in a residential care home. This could be a care home or a nursing home, depending on their needs. The Alzheimer’s Society has reported that around two-thirds of people in care homes have some form of dementia. However, not all care homes are suitable for people with dementia.

If you care for someone with dementia and they have to go into a care home, try to make their room as familiar as possible. For example, put photos of family and friends where they will see them every day. Favourite pictures, furniture and ornaments could also make them feel more at home.

You may be able to arrange a trial period in a care home for the person you care for.

Some people with severe dementia may need palliative care in a hospice, where they can receive good nursing care and pain control.

Charities for people with dementia

There are several dementia charities that can offer excellent advice and support. You can visit Alzheimer Scotland to find out about support available in Scotland. Alzheimer’s Society’s website contains information on dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, including how to live well with the disease. 

Dementia UK is a national charity that aims to improve the quality of life for people with dementia. As well as Admiral Nurses, it provides training for those working with people with dementia, and also runs Uniting Carers, a network for people to access the support they need.

If you are looking after someone with dementia, it’s important that you know how to get help and support for yourself as well. The Carers Trust is a good place to start looking for information and advice on how to get help and support, and even a break from caring.

Alzheimer’s Research UK carries out dementia research, but it also answers questions about dementia and dementia research – including how you and your loved ones can get involved. The charity’s infoline 0300 111 5 111 (open Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm) can provide help and guidance.

Social media for people with dementia and their carers

Online forums are a great way to share your experiences of caring for someone with dementia, as well as reading what others are going through. If there’s a particular issue you are struggling with, the chances are that someone else has also experienced it too.

Carers can also turn to online communities on the Carers UK forum and the Carers Trust forum.

Telecare Self-Check online tool

Visit the Telecare Self-Check online tool to find the right support for you in your area. This easy to use online tool allows you to find helpful information on telecare services that could help you live independently at home for longer.

Organising care at home

With the right support, someone who has dementia may be able to continue living at home for a long time.

Although having dementia can reduce a person’s ability to live independently, there is a variety of support available to help them. If you care for someone with dementia and want to help them to continue to live at home, you can find advice and resources below in the following areas:

Watch this video from the Alzheimer’s Society featuring 92-year-old Rose, who has dementia and lives in her own flat, supported by family and carers.

Support services that can help people with dementia

For some people with dementia, a valuable form of help could come from a paid careworker to come in to their home to help out with practical, hands-on tasks, such as cleaning, cooking, shopping and personal care.

For more information, read about possible care services in your home

Support can also come in the form of assistance from the local authority, such as a Meals on Wheels service or laundry and library services. Ask your local authority for more details. 

Helping someone with dementia to feed themselves

When it comes to mealtimes, a person with dementia may stop recognising the food in front of them. They may also struggle to use a knife and fork if their dementia affects their physical co-ordination, and find it hard to chew or swallow food. Further behaviour problems can result in the person with dementia refusing help with eating.

These factors can result in a limited diet for someone with dementia, which, in extreme cases, can lead to malnutrition. However, there are steps that can be taken to prevent this from happening.

For tips on supporting a person with dementia at mealtimes and an explanation of why changes in eating habits can occur, read this factsheet from Alzheimer’s UK about eating and drinking.

Dressing someone with dementia

As dementia progresses, a person’s concentration and co-ordination decreases and they need more help with dressing. It’s important that they are able to carry on deciding what they wear for as long as possible, but if they do need help, try to offer it with tact and sensitivity.

Make sure the person with dementia wears clothes that are suitably warm or cool, depending on the weather, that they have on layers if necessary and that they are dry.

If you’re helping them to buy new clothes, encourage them to choose clothes that are easier to manage, for example, clothes that have poppers instead of buttons.

Read this factsheet on dressing from the Alzheimer’s Society, which includes tips for helping someone to dress and helping them to choose comfortable clothing.

Helping someone with dementia to wash and bathe

For most adults, washing is a personal and private activity, so it can be hard for the person with dementia to adjust to having someone help them with this. It can also be challenging for you as a carer to adjust to this level of caring, if you’re new to it. Try to approach it in a positive and open-minded way, as this will help to prevent it from being a difficult experience for either of you.

There are also practical things to consider. A person might have difficulty getting in and out of the bath, lose recognition of the importance of personal hygiene, or resist help because of a desire for dignity and autonomy.

This factsheet from the Alzheimer’s Society on washing and bathing has tips for helping someone to wash, including encouraging independence and creating a relaxing environment.

Help with sitting, standing, moving and lifting

If you care for someone with advanced dementia, there will be many situations where you will need to physically handle them, for example, to help them in and out of bed, the bath, going to the toilet, or perhaps to lift them up if they have fallen.

However, unless you take the necessary precautions while lifting or moving someone, you may be at risk of injury.

If you start having to move someone regularly because they are unable to move themselves, contact your local authority to ask for a care and support needs assessment for the person with dementia. This is the best way to access help, equipment and training for moving a person.

Mobility problems in dementia

If the person with dementia develops mobility problems, they may benefit from using a wheelchair outside the home. They are more likely to need an attendant-propelled wheelchair, in which case, as a carer, you will need to consider what works for you as well as the person sitting in it. This includes issues such as whether you want a wheelchair that can be folded to fit into a car.

Safety at home and dementia

Someone with dementia is more at risk of being involved in accidents at home, particularly as the dementia progresses. This is because their sense of balance and ability to react quickly is reduced. Their memory and judgement are also both increasingly affected.

Stress and confusion experienced by the person with dementia, or tiredness on the part of their carers, can also increase the chances of an accident occurring. Furthermore, having memory loss and difficulty learning new things means that someone with dementia may forget where they are, where things are and how things work.

For all these reasons, it’s worth taking simple steps to help the person with dementia to navigate their home more easily and safely. But try not to make major changes overnight, as this can be alarming or upsetting to the person with dementia.

Read this factsheet from the Alzheimer’s Society about safety in the home. It includes tips on avoiding accidents by looking at areas such as lighting, equipment, dangerous substances and te risk of fire at home.

Installing specialist equipment and facilities can go a long way towards helping someone with dementia to continue living at home safely.

Read this factsheet from the Alzheimer’s Society about equipment, adaptations and improvements to the home. The best way to get this equipment is by getting a care and support needs assessment for the person you’re looking after.

How telecare technology can help with dementia

Telecare is a term used to describe personal alarms and health-monitoring devices that can help people with disabilities and long-term conditions to live more independently. Telecare can be particularly helpful if you’re caring for someone with dementia.

Telecare and telehealth services can give peace of mind to the person with dementia and their relatives, by confirming that they are safe at home and their health is stable. For example, telecare can help reassure you – from a distance – that the person you care for has got out of bed (through a bed pressure sensor) but hasn’t left the house (front door sensor).

Advance care planning for people with dementia

“Advance care planning” is a way to make sure that people get the support they want. Advance care planning means that everyone involved in looking after someone with dementia, including doctors, care workers, family carers and the person themselves, needs to think about, discuss and then record the person’s wishes regarding their ongoing care.

By ensuring that everyone understands what the person’s preferences are, it is more likely that the person will be supported as they would like to be, even if they are unable to say this in the future. This is particularly important for someone with dementia, as it can reduce anxiety, which can be a cause of challenging behaviour.

Telecare Self-Check online tool

Visit the Telecare Self-Check online tool to find the right support for you in your area. This easy to use online tool allows you to find helpful information on telecare services that could help you live independently at home for longer.

Care homes

Care homes give people with dementia the chance to live in a home environment with trained staff on hand to look after them day and night. A care home can offer similar kinds of care to what family members provide at home, such as help with washing, dressing and providing meals.

Care homes for older people are divided into those that offer “personal care” and those that offer “nursing care”. A care home that offers personal care will ensure residents’ basic personal needs – such as meals, bathing, going to the toilet and medication – are taken care of. In some homes, more able residents have greater independence and take care of many of their own needs.

Choosing a dementia care home

In most cases, the first step towards choosing a care home for someone with dementia will be to get an assessment from the local authority social services. This will make clear whether or not they need a place in residential care and what other options might be available.

Social services will be able to provide information about residential care homes and may be able to assist with finding a suitable home.

Even if the person with dementia is unlikely to be eligible for financial help with residential care home fees, it could still be worth involving social services. The information social services can give you, along with the assessment, is likely to help in making vital long-term decisions about care.

You may also want to consider:

  • The location of a care home – this will be more relevant for some people than others. Would the person you’re looking after prefer to be near family and friends? Are there shops, leisure or educational facilities in the area? Is the area noisy? 
  • Is the care home you’re looking at focused on the individual needs of residents, and will they provide for those needs? Or do they insist residents adapt to a particular routine?
  • What contact with the community does the care home have?
  • What arrangements are there for visitors? Can residents come and go as they please, as far as it is safe to do so? Are staff able to help residents go out? Are outings arranged?
  • What involvement would you have in the care home? How would you communicate with staff? Are there any support groups or regular meetings?
  • If safety and security are issues for the person you care for, what arrangements for supervision can the care home provide?
  • Will the care home meet specific religious, ethnic or cultural needs? Will the correct diet be provided? Will the person’s language be spoken? Will there be opportunities to participate in religious activities?

Care home inspection reports

Care homes for adults are inspected by the Care Inspectorate. If you are considering a particular residential care home, check the most recent inspection report on the Care Inspectorate website to see how well the care home is doing and if there is anything of concern.

As well as talking to social services, you can talk to your GP, district nurse, palliative care team or consultant to find out what is available in your area. Voluntary organisations such as Age UK or Mind may also be useful.

When considering a care home, you should check if it is accredited by the Care Inspectorate. Your care may involve the local hospital’s palliative care team, the local hospice team, your GP, community nurses and district nurses.

If you are relying on local authority funding, you will not be able to be cared for in a home that costs more than the authority is prepared to pay for, unless you or your family can pay the difference.

Whether you choose to receive care at home, in a care home or in a hospice, you should be assessed for Hospital Based Complex Clinical Care

It means a package of care is arranged and funded by the NHS and is free of charge to the person receiving the care. This is sometimes called Free Personal Care in Scotland.

End of life planning

People with dementia often live for many years after their diagnosis. The symptoms of dementia are likely to get worse over time, and it’s wise to make plans well in advance of a person’s condition deteriorating.

People with an incurable illness such as dementia, may be offered so-called end of life care (or palliative care) so they are able to live as well as possible until their death. End of life care also includes support for family members. Care can be provided at home, in a hospice, a care home, or hospital.

Everyone who has been diagnosed with dementia should have a care plan drawn up with healthcare professionals. End of life care should be a key part of this dementia care plan.

Details of end of life care included in the dementia care plan might include the person with dementia specifying where they would like to die, and how they’d like to be treated. The dementia care plan should also provide some support for carers, who will be grieving around the time of death.

Read about coping with bereavement

Preferences for end of life care should ideally be discussed and set out soon after a diagnosis of dementia. Actions such as making an advance statement of wishes should be thought about as soon as possible.

End of life planning should also consider practical advice after a death

Care at home for people with advanced dementia

Palliative care services may sometimes be offered in the home, rather than in a hospice building. “Hospice-at-home” services have staff that are usually on call 24 hours a day and can visit people at home.

Your GP can arrange for community palliative care nurses to provide care in the home. Your local authority may also provide social care services and equipment for the home. Read more about care at home.

Hospice care for advanced dementia

Hospices are specialist residential units run by a team of doctors, nurses, social workers, counsellors and trained volunteers. They are smaller and quieter than hospitals and feel more like a home.

Hospices can provide individual care more suited to individuals in a gentler, calmer atmosphere. There is no charge for hospice care, but patients must be referred to a hospice through their GP. Find hospice services near you using our Support Services Directory.

Palliative care in a care home

Palliative care is available in residential care homes. If someone with dementia is already in a residential home, they may want to stay there for their palliative care. This may make them more comfortable and less distressed than having to go into hospital, unless that is necessary.

You should ask if the residential home is accredited by the end of life Gold Standards network, which means that the home has specially trained staff and good links with local GPs.

Palliative care for dementia as a hospice day patient

If someone who has dementia prefers to remain living at home, they may be able to visit a hospice during the day. This means they can receive the care and support they need without permanently leaving their home.

As a day patient, they will be able to access more services than could be offered if they stayed at home. Such services might include creative and complementary therapies and rehabilitation, as well as nursing and medical care. They will also meet other patients. Hospices often provide transport to and from the hospice.

Money matters

People with dementia need to organise their financial and legal affairs while they are able to make decisions.

It’s a good idea to get professional advice about wills, pensions, how to manage any financial assets you have, and how to ensure any partner or children are protected and financially secure.

If you have dementia, you may want to consider appointing a trusted person to manage your money in case you are no longer able to do so yourself. This is called Lasting Power of Attorney, and can also enable the nominated person to make decisions about health and welfare matters on your behalf.

If you are looking after someone with dementia, you may find yourself helping them manage their daily finances and paying their bills. This may be dependent on the person’s disability or mental capacity, and should be discussed with them in advance.

Benefits for people with dementia

If you care for someone with dementia, check you are both getting all the benefits and tax credits you are entitled to. For example, you may be able to claim Personal Independence Payment or Attendance Allowance for the person with dementia, and Carer’s Allowance for the carer. You or the person you look after may be entitled to a discount on your council tax.

To find out more, read the Money Advice Service’s information on managing money when someone is in ill health.

You can get advice and help about claiming benefits from your local social security office, voluntary organisations and support groups.

Dealing with bank accounts for someone with dementia

If you have Power of Attorney or have been made an appointee or deputy, you may be able to manage someone’s banking activities. For this to happen, you need to have had your power of attorney registered to be recognised as a person’s appointee or deputy.

The bank or building society will require proof of your legal standing on managing someone’s finances before they allow you access. They will also need to see proof of the name and address of the person you are caring for.

Restrictions may be in place regarding how you are able to manage the account. For example, if someone has been made an appointee, they can only deal with money from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

You can also apply for a third party mandate to deal with a bank, building society or other financial account on someone’s behalf. This allows you to deal with someone else’s banking for them in branch if they cannot attend the bank themselves. Contact the account holder’s bank for more information about setting up a third party mandate.

Read more about informal help to manage your money from the Money Advice Service.

Managing legal affairs

Symptoms of dementia will become worse over time. That’s why it’s important to get an early diagnosis and start making plans for the future as soon as possible.

These plans should include ensuring your wishes are upheld should you not be able to make decisions for yourself – also called lacking or impaired “capacity”.

Consent to treatment if your capacity is impaired by dementia

The Mental Capacity Act is designed to protect people who lack the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves.

Under the Act, a person is presumed to have capacity “unless all practical steps to help him (or her) to make a decision have been taken without success”. 

Find out more about the Mental Capacity Act

Giving your consent means you must give express permission before any medical treatment can be carried out on you.

Consent is needed for all treatments, whether it’s a simple blood test or an organ donation.

The only time when treatment can go ahead without your permission is if you cannot make a decision on your own and the doctors responsible for your care believe that treatment is in your best interests. 

Find out more about consent issues

Power of attorney for people with dementia

There may be a time in the future when your symptoms mean you are no longer able to give consent. You may wish to give a relative you trust the power to make decisions about you if you are unable to. This is known as power of attorney.

There are three different types of power of attorney:

  • Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) for matters relating to property and financial affairs
  • LPA for matters relating to the person’s welfare (including their health)
  • Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA). EPAs made before October 1 2007 are still valid and can only be registered if the person is losing, or has lost, their mental capacity, and must be registered by the attorney

The LPA has to be made in a fixed legal way and is not legally recognised until it is registered with the Office of the Public Guardian.

The person making a power of attorney for property and affairs can register the LPA while they are able to make decisions for themselves. A personal welfare LPA may only be registered when a person has lost capacity. Separate powers of attorney can be made for either LPA, or both LPAs can be appointed to the same attorney.

Read more about dementia and your money

Advance care planning in dementia

After you’re first diagnosed with dementia, you might want to consider drawing up an advance decision. An advance care plan makes your treatment preferences known now in case you are unable to do this in the future.

Subjects covered by an advance decision can include:

  • what treatment you would consider having, and in what circumstances
  • what types of treatment you would never wish to have, no matter the circumstances
  • what type of end of life care you would wish to have – for example, whether you would want to be resuscitated by artificial means, such as having a breathing tube inserted into your neck if you have lung failure
  • whether you would be willing to donate organs after your death

You cannot request anything illegal in your advance decision, such as assisted suicide. Your care team will be able to provide you with more information and advice about advance decisions.


A will lets you decide what happens to your assets (your money, property and possessions) after your death. It’s the best way of ensuring your wishes are carried out the way you want when you die.

If you die without making a will, the government will decide what happens to your assets. You can write your will yourself, but it’s a good idea to get legal advice. It will need to be formally witnessed and signed to make it legally valid.

GOV.UK recommends that when writing your will, it should include:

  • who you want to benefit from your will
  • who should look after any children aged under 18
  • who is going to sort out your estate and carry out your wishes after your death (your executor)
  • what happens if the people you want to benefit die before you

You should keep your will safe and tell your executor where it is. 

For more information, read GOV.UK advice on writing your will or go to Citizens Advice. You may also want to check out the Money Advice Service information on making and changing a will and planning your estate.

Have you just been diagnosed with dementia?

Whether your diagnosis came as a shock, or confirmed what you’d suspected for some time, it’s important to plan ahead while you’re still able to make clear decisions for yourself.

If you’ve just been diagnosed with dementia, you may be feeling numb, scared and unable to take everything in. Give yourself a little time to adjust. It might help to talk it through with family and friends.

Once the initial feelings have passed, it’s time to move on and create an action plan for the future. Dementia is a progressive illness, so the sooner you take care of legal, financial and healthcare matters, the better. These are the key things to think about:

Get assessed

Your local authority has a duty to carry out a care and support needs assessment to establish which of its services you need. 

For further information, read the Alzheimer’s Society’s factsheet on community care assessments

Services and support

Find out what’s available locally, so you’re prepared and able to call on this support as and when you need it. Services arranged by local authorities vary between areas, but may include home care services, equipment and adaptations for your home. Some services, such as community nursing, are arranged through the NHS. Ask your hospital consultant for details.

Charities such as the Alzheimer’s Society, Age UK and Dementia UK provide a range of services, including information, helplines, support groups, lunch clubs and home care schemes.

Making a will

It’s a good idea to make a will, if you haven’t already. This ensures that when you die, your money and possessions go to people of your choosing. A person with dementia can still make or change a will, provided you can show that you understand what you are doing and what the effects of it will be. Your solicitor will decide if this is the case.

Read more about dementia and legal issues, including making a will. The Alzheimer’s Society also has a useful factsheet on managing legal affairs.

Putting your papers in order

Make sure that all your important papers can be easily found. These might include bank and building society statements, mortgage or rent documents, insurance policies, your will, tax and pension details, bills and guarantees.

Consider setting up direct debits or standing orders for your regular bills. This will mean they are paid automatically from your bank account each month.

Read more about managing someone else’s banking.

Claiming benefits

Check that you are claiming all the benefits you’re entitled to. In particular, check:

Other benefits you may be eligible for include income support or minimum income guarantee, incapacity benefit, housing benefit and council tax relief.

The Alzheimer’s Society’s factsheet on benefits can also tell you what’s on offer and how to claim.

Lasting power of attorney

You can appoint one or more people as “attorneys” to manage your affairs, including your finances, property and medical treatment, should it become necessary. You can choose anybody you trust to be your attorney, usually a close friend or family member, but they must be over 18.

Read more about power of attorney.

Advance care planning

You may wish to make an advance care plan, so you can have a say in your future medical care. It enables you to refuse, in advance, a specific medical treatment or procedure, should you become unable to decide for yourself in the future.

Find out about advance care planning.

Take care of your mental health

If you’re depressed or feeling very down, talk to your GP. Depression is very common in early dementia and there are a range of treatments that can help.

Read more about how to spot depression

Staying well

As with other long-term conditions, it’s important to look after yourself when you have dementia, by stopping smoking, eating healthily and taking regular exercise. Ask your GP if you would benefit from flu vaccination and pneumococcal vaccination.

Read more about living well with dementia.

Memory books

Memory books can be a helpful way of stimulating your memory and reconnecting you with your loved ones in the future. Essentially, it’s a “This is Your Life” compilation of photographs, notes and keepsakes from your childhood through to the present day. It can be either a physical book or a digital system, like a photo book.

Telecare Self-Check online tool

Visit the Telecare Self-Check online tool to find the right support for you in your area. This easy to use online tool allows you to find helpful information on telecare services that could help you live independently at home for longer.

What to expect from social services and the NHS

The NHS and local councils can help people with dementia to get information and services to help them.

If you are diagnosed with dementia, your future health and social care needs will need to be assessed, and a care plan created to set out how your needs will be met.

If you are eligible for help, your social and personal care will come from the social services department of your local authority or council, while the healthcare you need will be provided by the NHS.

You may have to pay for all or some of the help arranged by social services, depending on your income and savings, while the NHS care you receive will largely be free.

The services you get will depend on your own circumstances and what the local council or NHS is willing to pay for.

Social services and dementia

Social services can help with your personal care and day-to-day activities. For example, social services may offer to provide home care assistants to help you with washing and dressing, laundry services, meals on wheels, frozen food delivery, aids and adaptations, and help with claiming benefits.

An assessment is required to access the services you need. If you haven’t already had an assessment by health and social services, contact your local authority or GP and ask for the social services department to carry out an assessment of your care and support needs. Once you’ve put in your request, a care manager will contact you or your family to carry out a telephone assessment, or to arrange an appointment to see you at home and assess your needs.

Find your local authority

NHS support for dementia

NHS help for dementia includes the treatment you receive from your GP and hospital. It can also include other types of healthcare such as community mental health nurses, physiotherapy, audiology (hearing care), optometry (eye tests), podiatry (foot care), speech and language therapy, and mobility specialists.

The NHS will also fund any nursing care you receive in a nursing home, although nursing home placement may not be completely free.

In some parts of the country, the NHS provides Admiral nurses. These are NHS specialist dementia nurses who will visit you to give you practical guidance on accessing services as well as offering emotional support. 

The NHS provides free continuing healthcare, for people with dementia whose care needs relate mainly to their health. If you’re awarded continuing healthcare, the NHS will provide and fund your entire care package – including your healthcare and social care – whether you live in a care home or in your own home. If you live in a care home, NHS continuing healthcare covers your residential costs and your food, as well as any nursing care.

To qualify for NHS continuing healthcare, you need to have an individual assessment, this may have already happened. To check whether you’ve had a continuing healthcare assessment, or to request one, contact your local NHS organisation (known as the CCG) and ask for the NHS continuing healthcare co-ordinator.

The Department of Health has produced a booklet, called NHS continuing healthcare and NHS-funded nursing care (PDF, 113kb), for people who may need NHS continuing care, and their families and carers.

Tips for getting help and support for dementia

Getting help and support for dementia can be made difficult by the memory, functional and emotional problems caused by dementia. And it can be complicated for carers to act on behalf of a person with dementia. These three tips may help:

  • Keep copies of forms and letters and a record of who you’ve seen. It will help you keep track of your progress and be useful for the health and social care professionals you meet.
  • Be prepared to be persistent to get what you want. Health and social care professionals may not always communicate with each other as well as they should, and you may find you have to explain your situation each time you meet a new professional.
  • Consider using an advocacy organisation. Advocacy organisations can help you access services and give you advice about your rights, particularly if you find meetings and talks with health and social care professionals quite intimidating. The Alzheimer’s Society has a nationwide network of advocates.

Telecare Self-Check online tool

Visit the Telecare Self-Check online tool to find the right support for you in your area. This easy to use online tool allows you to find helpful information on telecare services that could help you live independently at home for longer.

Spot the signs of dementia

Dementia is not a disease, but a collection of symptoms that result from damage to the brain. These symptoms can be caused by a number of conditions. On this page you can read about:

Symptoms specific to Alzheimer’s disease

The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. Common symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia include:

  • memory loss – especially problems with memory for recent events, such as forgetting messages, remembering routes or names, and asking questions repetitively
  • increasing difficulties with tasks and activities that require organisation and planning
  • becoming confused in unfamiliar environments
  • difficulty finding the right words
  • difficulty with numbers and/or handling money in shops
  • changes in personality and mood
  • depression

Early symptoms of dementia (sometimes called cognitive impairment) are often mild and may get worse only very gradually. This means you might not notice if you have them, and family and friends may not notice them or take them seriously for some time.

In dementia, the brain becomes more damaged and works less well over time. The symptoms of dementia tend to change and become more severe.

For this reason, it’s important to talk to your GP sooner rather than later if you are worried about memory problems.

The speed at which symptoms get worse, and the way that symptoms develop, depends on what’s causing the dementia, as well as overall health. This means that the symptoms and experience of dementia can vary greatly from person to person.

Some people may also have more than one condition – for example, they may have Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia at the same time.

While dementia has many symptoms that are similar whatever the cause, the different forms of dementia do have some particular symptoms.

Symptoms specific to vascular dementia

The symptoms of vascular dementia can sometimes develop suddenly and quickly get worse, although they can also develop gradually over many months or years.

People with vascular dementia may also experience stroke-like symptoms, including muscle weakness or paralysis on one side of their body.

Read more about vascular dementia.

Symptoms specific to dementia with Lewy bodies

Dementia with Lewy bodies has many of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and people with the condition typically also experience:

  • periods of being alert or drowsy, or fluctuating levels of confusion 
  • visual hallucinations
  • becoming slower in their physical movements

Read more about dementia with Lewy bodies.

Symptoms specific to frontotemporal dementia

Early symptoms of frontotemporal dementia typically include changes in emotion, personality and behaviour. For example, someone with this type of dementia may become less sensitive to other people’s emotions, perhaps making them seem cold and unfeeling.

They may also lose some of their inhibitions, leading to behaviour that is out of character, such as making tactless or inappropriate comments.

Some people with frontotemporal dementia also have language problems. This may include not speaking, speaking less than usual or having problems finding the right words.

Read more about frontotemporal dementia.

Symptoms in the later stages of dementia

As dementia progresses, memory loss and difficulties with communication often become very severe. In the later stages, the person is likely to neglect their own health and require constant care and attention.

Memory symptoms in later dementia

People with advanced dementia may not recognise close family and friends, they may not remember where they live or know where they are. They may find it impossible to understand simple pieces of information, carry out basic tasks or follow instructions.

Communication problems in later dementia

It’s common for people with dementia to have increasing difficulty speaking and they may eventually lose the ability to speak altogether. It’s important to keep trying to communicate with them and to recognise and use other, non-verbal means of communication, such as expression, touch and gestures.

Read more about communication problems in dementia.

Problems with mobility in later dementia

Many people with dementia gradually become less able to move about unaided and may appear increasingly clumsy when carrying out everyday tasks. Some people may eventually be unable to walk and may become bedbound.

Read more about mobility problems in dementia.

Incontinence in later dementia

Bladder incontinence is common in the later stages of dementia and some people will also experience bowel incontinence.

Eating, appetite and weight loss in later dementia

Loss of appetite and weight loss are common in the later stages of dementia. It’s important that people with dementia get help at mealtimes to ensure they eat enough.

Many people have trouble eating or swallowing and this can lead to choking, chest infections and other problems.  

Read more about eating and nutrition.

Last updated:
05 May 2022

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