How Dementia Affects the Brain

Dementia is a common disease, there’s approximately 944,000 people in the UK living with dementia and the majority are being cared for at home. Statistics show that 1 in 3 people will develop a form of dementia in their lifetime. When a person begins exhibiting signs of dementia, it can be a very stressful and emotional time for their family and friends. Understanding more about the illness and how dementia affects the brain can help you, your family, and your loved one living with dementia to cope with its symptoms.

Dementia is a wide term used to describe the many different symptoms which are associated with cognitive impairment. Each type of dementia presents varying symptoms, and these will affect each person living with the disease differently. The type of dementia can depend on which part of the brain is affected. There are many types of dementia, but the most common types are:

  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Vascular Dementia
  • Lewy Body Dementia
  • Frontal Lobe Dementia

Understanding how dementia affects the brain can help explain our loved ones behaviour. When a person has dementia, it will be affecting a certain part of their brain. Shrinkage and plaque can occur in one or more key areas, and this impacts how the neurons transport and translate signals to nerve endings. The misfiring of that information is what alters memory, speech, and behaviour.

You may ask, how many sections of the brain are affected by dementia? There are four key lobes of the cortex that can be affected by dementia and these are the:

  • Frontal Lobe (thinking, memory, behaviour and movement)
  • Parietal Lobe (language and touch)
  • Temporal Lobe (hearing, learning and feelings)

Though some of these, such as memory and hearing, can be naturally affected by normal ageing as the speed of processing gradually slows, this is drastically exacerbated by dementia. When dementia is altering these areas of the brain, a person’s ability to plan, sequence, make decisions, and problem solve (executive functioning) is halted.

You may find your loved one sat on their bed, half dressed, or notice a general inability to recognise objects or judge their position. A change in perception is very common, so it is important to make sure all objects are placed directly in front of the person to reduce confusion, and make sure they have clear paths to walk on to avoid accidents.