What is Dementia?

Dementia is a term used to describe a group of brain diseases which result in the progressive impairment of brain function. Symptoms may include loss of memory, confusion, language difficulties, difficulties performing routine tasks and personality or mood changes.

Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common cause of dementia and accounts for 50-60% of cases. The disease progressively destroys nerve cells disrupting the transmitters that carry messages in the brain. Vascular Dementia and Lewy Body Disease are two other common causes accounting for some 15-20% each.

In Malta, it is estimated that there are currently more than 4,300 people with dementia. Since the number of people living longer lives is increasing, the number of people with dementia is expected to double over the next twenty years. Further details on the prevalence of dementia in the Maltese Islands can be found in this Maltese Medical Journal Article.

There is currently no cure for dementia. As the disease progresses, those affected are unable to care for themselves and will require assistance in activities of daily life. Drug treatments are now available to treat some of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

Much can be done to help the person with dementia to enjoy and get the most of their life. Carers and relatives of persons with dementia need to be well informed about the condition and helped to learn new skills to be able to succeed in their important mission.