Insight into dementia

What is dementia?

Image of two elderly women chatting Dementia is not a disease in itself. It is a term used to describe a group of symptoms. These include a gradual loss of memory, a decline in the ability to think and reason and problems with communication. These symptoms are
caused by a variety of different disorders and conditions.There are many signs of dementia and the risk of developing it increases dramatically with age.

What are the signs?

Dementia is progressive but each person is unique and will experience dementia in their own way. Symptoms include:

  • Loss of memory - example forgetting the way home from the shops or a previously well-known route when driving.
  • Being unable to remember names and places.
  • Communication problems - a decline in the ability to talk, read and write.
  • Mood changes - particularly as parts of the brain that control emotion are affected by the disease. People with dementia may also feel sad, frightened or angry about what is happening to them
  • In the later signs, the person affected will have problems carrying out everyday tasks and will become increasingly dependent on others.

Getting a diagnosis

Having a diagnosis will help you plan for the future. It is better to know what you are dealing with. With a diagnosis you may be able to benefit from any new treatments available. Other health and social needs may be identified and appropriate action taken.

You may be able to identify sources of advice and support such as the care provided by your local social services department. There is no simple straightforward test for dementia. A diagnosis is usually made by excluding other causes. Your doctor (GP or specialist) will want to rule out infection, vitamin deficiency, thyroid gland problems, brain tumours, the side effect of drugs and depression. Some of these conditions are treatable so it is important they are identified.

Self help

Once a person has been diagnosed with dementia he or she will have lots of questions to ask. The answers to may of these questions can be found in the Alzheimer’s Society’s booklet entitled “I’m told I have dementia”. The booklet tells you what you can do and who you can turn to.

Carers are often surprised by the intensity of the emotions they feel especially by their anger and sadness. The Alzheimer’s Society produces a number of publications and free factsheets giving essential information, practical tips and useful resources.


Many carers of a person with dementia would not, to begin with, describe themselves as a carer. Usually they are the person's partner, son or daughter or close friend. They can have very mixed feelings about being in this caring
role. The relationships between the carer and the person with dementia is usually complex. People caring for those with dementia may become increasinly socially isolated and stressed.

Carers' support groups provide opportunities for carers of people with dementia to get together and meet people in the same situation. Carers' contacts are trained volunteers who provide support over the phone to carers who wish to talk to someone with knowledge about dementia and the responsibilities of caring.

Living with dementia

In the film below, CPFT research participants Chris and Julia share their experience of living with Alzheimer's Disease, how they are coping and the support they find helpful. They also explain why research is so important to help improve diagnosis and treatments for dementia. Click to play:


CPFT specialises in dementia research and offers a range of studies that people with dementia and their carers and families can take part in, to learn more about different dementias and help to test new treatments and therapies. You can find current opportunities on this page: or contact CPFT'S Windsor Research Unit for more information: email or telephone 01223 219531.

Further help

First Response Service
If you or a loved one is in mental health crisis, you can call our 24-hour First Response Service on 111 (option 2). This service is for anyone, of any age, living in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. Specially-trained mental health
staff will speak to you and discuss with you your mental health care needs.
More information about getting help in a crisis is available on this webpage:

Alzheimer's Society
More information about dementia can be found on the Alzheimer's Society's website here:
More information about dementia and support available can be found on its website here:
Dementia UK works to help families face dementia and they have co-produced a leaflet on mental health admissions for people with dementia with lived experience experts in the Inpatient Mental Health and Dementia Experience Group run by CPFT and the University of Cambridge. This resource is provided to inform and reassure families visiting CPFT's inpatient dementia wards.

Pdf version of this page:  Insight into dementia 2018.pdf 1004KB

As a patient

As a patient, relative or carer using our services, sometimes you may need to turn to someone for help, advice, and support. 

Patient Advice and Liaison service  Contact the Trust