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 the way they should. Dementia changes the way people think, feel and act.

Learn more about dementia here, then test your knowledge in the quiz below.

Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia, lewy body disease and vascular dementia are some of the more common types or causes of dementia.

There are many others – do you know the names of any?

Has anyone ever told you that you are unique? Well, you are! No one else looks, thinks and acts exactly the same as you. Every person is unique and has a unique brain. So everyone who gets dementia is affected by it in their own way.

What kind of changes have you noticed in the person you know who has dementia? What have you noticed in their house?

This is Heather’s House. Some of the people living here 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.

OK, so we’re all different. Still, there are some things 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 anymore
  • stop doing things they used to enjoy
  • 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
  • not understand how you feel
  • need more help with things like cooking, shopping, or getting dressed
  • seem different, as if they are not the same person they used to be

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

Well, you will remember that for everything we do, our neurons are helping the different lobes of our brain to work together. But when parts of the brain are damaged by a disease and the neurons can’t pass on their messages, the brain can’t work the way it should. When this happens, everyday living gets much, much harder.

It can take a long time to figure out that someone has dementia. If you cut your finger, you can see the damage and know why your finger hurts. But the damage caused by dementia is inside the brain and we can’t see it just by looking.

Doctors use special tests to work out if a person has dementia and what kind of dementia they have. The tests are made up of lots and lots of questions. The answers a person gives to the questions tell the doctors how the person’s brain is working.

In some hospitals there are special scanning machines which let doctors “see” inside a person’s brain, a bit like an x-ray shows the bones inside your body. These scans can be used to help work out what is causing the changes in the person.

Even though it’s not good news to find out someone we love has dementia, it can be a relief to understand why the person is changing.

Why do people get dementia?

Doctors don’t know why some people get dementia and others don’t. What we DO know is 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 you can’t catch dementia like you can catch a cold. It is not contagious. No one else in the family will catch dementia from the person who has it.

Most people who get dementia are older adults. In very rare cases, it can happen to younger adults in their 30s and 40s.

The older a person is, the more likely they are to get dementia. BUT not everyone who is old gets dementia!

Most old people do not have dementia. 🙂

Sometimes it feels like nobody understands what it’s like to have a family member with dementia. But in fact, lots of people have dementia. All around the world other families are looking after someone with dementia too.

In Australia, the number of people with dementia could fill the Melbourne Cricket Ground 4 times over. That means many thousands of Australian kids know someone who has dementia!!

You are not alone

See this map? Each “pin” you see has been dropped there by a kid who has a family member or friend with dementia. The pins have been dropped in the area on the map where these kids live.

Come back another time and see how many pins there are. These pins represent kids around Australia who know what it’s like when someone you love has dementia!

Can people with dementia get better?

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.

Doctors and scientists all around the world are working hard to find a way to cure dementia.

Dementia is a progressive disease. This means that, as time goes on, it affects more and more of the brain.

At first, we might not notice much change and sometimes it seems the person might not have dementia at all! Then, as time passes, we notice more and more changes in the way the person thinks, feels and acts and they 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. Most of the time, dementia progresses over a number of years.

Eventually, there is so much damage to the brain that it can’t keep the person alive anymore and the person with dementia dies. Sadly, that’s the way it is with dementia. That’s the way things are.

Can a person with dementia keep on living at home?

Often, as dementia progresses, the person with dementia might need more help than their family can give them at home. When this happens, the person might move to a new home where, day and night, nurses and other carers are there to look after them. These homes are called nursing homes or residential care homes.

In residential care homes, families and friends can keep visiting the person with dementia and keep on helping them just as they might have done before.

To start the quiz simply click on the "Start" button below.