Dementia in my family

What is dementia?

When someone has dementia, they have a disease of the brain which damages parts of it and stops those parts working like they should. Dementia changes the way people think, feel and act.

Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia, lewy body disease and vascular dementia are all types or causes of dementia.

Do you know the names of any others?

Each of these types of dementia affects the brain in different ways.

This is Heather’s House . Some of the people living there have dementia of different kinds. How can you tell? Have a look around and see if you can find all the clues.

The neurons will help you keep score. If you get stuck, click the “?” for a hint.

Has anyone ever told you that you are unique? Well, you are! No one else in the world is exactly the same as you. Everyone is unique and our brains are unique too. This means that each person who gets dementia is affected by it in their own way.

But there are some things that many people with dementia have in common. Families often notice that when a person has dementia they might:

Spend more time on their own

Not be able to drive a car

Stop playing games or sports they used to play

Get angry or upset more easily

Feel sad more often

Laugh at things that aren’t funny for you

Not get upset about things they used to get upset about

Have trouble remembering things

Have trouble understanding how you feel

Need more help with things like cooking, shopping, or getting dressed

The kinds of changes we notice depend on the type of dementia a person has. They depend on which parts of the brain have been damaged.

Why do people get dementia?

Doctors don’t know why some people get dementia and others don’t. But we DO know that it is not anyone’s fault when a person gets dementia. It is definitely NOT your fault if someone you know has dementia and things get harder for your family.

Another thing we know about dementia is that we can’t catch dementia like we can catch a cold. You won’t get dementia from the person you know who has it. No one else in the family will catch dementia either.

Most people who get dementia are older people.

Not everyone who is old gets dementia!

As you know, we usually get better when we are sick. Sometimes we need to see a doctor to help us get better. But sadly, doctors don’t know how to make people with dementia get better.

All around the world, there are other families looking after someone who has dementia too!

And all around the world, doctors and scientists are working hard to find a way to cure dementia or make the changes happen more slowly.

What happens to people when they’ve had dementia for a long time?

Remember how the different lobes of the brain are in charge of different things? And remember how dementia causes damage to the brain?

Well, at first, dementia damages only a small part of the brain in some lobes. But over time it spreads to other parts of the brain.

As more of the brain is damaged, a person with dementia has trouble doing more and more things. They will need more and more help.

Doctors can’t tell how long it will take for these changes to happen, because it is different for everyone. For most people, it takes a number of years.

Eventually, so much of the brain is damaged that it can’t keep the person alive anymore and the person with dementia will die. Dying is what happens to every living thing at the end of its life.

Feel like talking about this to someone but you don’t know who? Jump over to our “What Can Help?” pages for some ideas.

Hold their hand, give them a hug or smile

Do things together, like reading, drawing, playing or going for walks

Bring them to watch you play sport

Sing or dance with them

Play their favourite music

Draw pictures for them

Celebrate special events together

Share stories about your life - your weekend, your friends, your pets, your school

Ask them to tell you stories about when they were young

Explain about dementia to other people

Remember, everyone is different, so choose what’s best for you AND come up with your own ideas!

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