What is Dementia?

Dementia is a syndrome, a collection of symptoms that are caused by a number of diseases. The most common being Alzheimer’s disease, and also include dozens of other different diseases such as Parkinson’s, vascular and Huntington’s diseases. Getting old is a non-modifiable risk factor in developing dementia, and therefore there is a higher risk of developing dementia as we age, but not everyone is bound to develop this disease. This degenerating disease in brain and physical health is both insidious and life terminating.

Following are 3 stages to understanding dementia and some common symptoms:

  • Stage 1 – Mild – loss of short term memory in the hippocampus. Poor judgement and planning (frontal cortex)
  • Stage 2 – Moderate – Further impairment to memory, orientation, mood, and onset of psychological symptoms
  • Stage 3 – Advance – Progressive impairment of nerve impulses that lead to physical decline such as mobility, chewing, swallowing, and continence

Q: What happens to the brain on the onset of dementia?

Excess of beta-amyloid forms plagues and neurofibrillary tangles form inside and outside of brain cell that cause the brain to slowly shrink. The atrophy of the brain contribute to the loss of connection from the brain to the rest of the body. Research have shown that the first onset of these plagues and tangles can sometimes appear decades before the first symptoms appear.

Q: What are the other risk factors that cause dementia?

A previous blog post, “Dementia. when, how & what?” has information on the identified risk of dementia by Lancet, with only 2 non-modifiable risk factors. One being ageing, the other being born with a faulty gene – APOE e4.

Q: Will testing of the inherited APOE e4 gene be sufficient in reducing the risk of developing dementia?

There are no clear tests that can effectively diagnose dementia. Even if the test resulted in an inherited APOE e4 gene, it does not necessarily mean that person would go on to develop dementia.


In this month of Dementia Awareness, we at KOPWA pledge to become Dementia Friends. We want to continuously increase our understanding of people living with dementia so that we can become effective communicators in our care responses towards them. For more information on our services, please contact administration@kopwa.org.au or call (02) 9412 0284.

A Dementia Awareness information event will be held at KOPWA’s Archbold House, for more details, please ring Jennifer on 0478 077 340.

For more information on dementia, visit Dementia Australia