Dementia is not one illness. It is the word used to describe many different diseases and their effects on brain health. Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia, but the term covers more than a hundred diseases, most of them very rare. Just as every person is unique, the course of a person's dementia will be unique as well. 

Dementia is a life-limiting condition that gets worse over time. Most people know that it affects memory, but this is just part of the story. As dementia develops, different parts of the brain are affected and so will different aspects of a person's life and abilities. Common areas that may become difficult include memory, someone's sense of time and space, language and communication.

The biggest risk factor for developing dementia is getting older. This is why dementia is becoming more common - as the population becomes healthier and lives longer, more people will go on to develop it. However, old age is not the only risk factor and 42,000 younger people also live with the condition. They are likely to experience distinct challenges related to their stage of life - for example many will have financial dependents or young children. 

There is no cure for dementia but there are things you can do in middle-age to greatly reduce your chances of developing it later in life:

  • Stop smoking
  • Maintain a health weight
  • Exercise
  • Keep socially active and try new things

This last one may be unexpected, but it is very important.

Socialising and trying new things creates new connections in the brain. This can help reduce your risk of developing dementia and it can also help you live as well as possible with the condition if you do develop it.

But going out and trying new things can be difficult if you have dementia and are not feeling like yourself. People with dementia and their families can become isolated. Music can help and the Music for Dementia 2020 website is a good place to look for detailed information about music-related activities you may want to get involved with - including making a playlist.

For more information about dementia

  • Dementia UK: Dementia UK is a charity that provides Admiral Nurses for families affected by dementia. Admiral Nurses have the knowledge and experience to understand the situation and suggest answers that might be hard to find elsewhere.
  • The Alzheimer's SocietyAlzheimer's Society is the UK's leading dementia support and research charity, here for anyone affected by any form of dementia in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
  • Alzheimer Scotland: Alzheimer Scotland offers services for people affected by dementia in Scotland.
  • TIDETide is a national involvement network for carers and former carers of people with dementia. 
  • Prevent Dementia - Edinburgh UniversityPrevent Dementia is a study with a primary focus on identifying risk factors for dementia in mid-life. 
  • Young Dementia UK: YoungDementia UK is the dedicated national charity for younger people with dementia and their families.
  • Music for Dementia 2020:Music for Dementia 2020 is a national campaign to make music available for everyone living with dementia by 2020.

National Dementia Helplines

Dementia UK's Admiral Nurse Helpline: 0800 888 6678 or send an email to [email protected] 

Alzheimer's Society National Dementia Helpline (for England, Wales, and Northern Ireland): 0300 222 1122

Alzheimer Scotland helpline: 0808 808 3000 or send an email to [email protected]