What is Dementia?

Dementia is the family name for a number of disorders, all of which have in common a loss of memory and other intellectual functions, a reduction in the person's ability to care for him/herself, often accompanied by emotional changes and disturbances of behaviour. There are many types of dementia: the most common are Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia and Lewy body demenita. These conditions are usually progressive and there are, as yet, no curative treatments; the available medications for Alzheimer's disease are thought to slow the rate of decline in a proportion of those affected.

It is estimated that over 40,000 people suffer from a dementia in Wales. This number will increase still further with the projected growth in the number of people over 80, who are most at risk of developing a dementia. When family and other informal care-givers are taken into account the total number of people involved is several times greater. The economic impact of dementia in Wales could be as much as £1.35 billion (Alzheimer’s Research Trust, 2010), if indirect costs such as informal carers' opportunity costs are taken into account. Dementia is a major concern for health and social services; it is the single most frequent cause of admission to residential and nursing homes, and of the need for community care services in older people. Younger people may also be affected, and often must be cared for by services designed for older people.