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Dementia - What it is

What is dementia?

Dementia is the medical term used to describe a group of symptoms consisting of memory loss, impaired judgement, disorientation and behavioural changes, which are of sufficient severity to cause loss of function.

Dementia is not part of normal ageing, although the elderly are more susceptible to becoming demented. Dementia occurs because there is degeneration of brain function, which eventually affects social or occupational activities (e.g. work, hobbies, shopping, cooking, dressing, eating, bathing and toileting). 

Dementia - Symptoms

  • Recent memory loss that affects job performance
  • Difficulty performing familiar tasks
  • Problems with language
  • Disorientation with time and space
  • Poor or decreased judgement
  • Problems with abstract thinking
  • Misplacing things
  • Changes in personality
  • Loss of initiative
  • Changes in mood or behaviour

(Adapted from “Someone to Stand by You”: A guide for caregivers affected by Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia. Alzheimer’s Disease Association: Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.)

Dementia - How to prevent?

Dementia - Causes and Risk Factors

Causes of dementia

Alzheimer’s Disease (AD)

  • AD is the most common form of dementia. Changes in the brain occur gradually, and symptoms include short term memory problems, changes in judgment or reasoning and the inability to perform familiar tasks.

Vascular Dementia (VaD) (Strokes causing dementia)

  • VaD may be preventable, therefore early detection and diagnosis is important. Lack of circulation of blood through the brain causes damage to localised areas frequently associated with muscle weakness. This can cause changes in thinking and behaviour.

FrontoTemporal Dementia (FTD)

  • In the early stages, FTD primarily affects personality, behaviour and/or speech. Persons with FTD may behave impulsively and be difficult to redirect. Memory and orientation remain relatively intact.

Lewy Body Dementia (LBD)

  • LBD is a form of progressive dementia with noticeable fluctuations from day to day in attention and ability to function. Persons may report what sounds to be a vivid imagination/hallucinations. Features can also resemble Parkinson’s Disease (rigidity, tremors, stooped posture).

Parkinson’s Disease with dementia 

Autoimmune diseases of the brain  

Normal pressure hydrocephalus

Brain trauma

Risk factors for dementia

  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Hypertension
  • Hypercholesteromia
  • Increasing age
  • Family history of dementia
  • Strokes
  • Parkinson’s Disease

Dementia - Diagnosis

Why is it important to have a diagnosis?

  • Reduce anxiety for the patient and their family
  • Receive early treatment to slow down the disease
  • Alleviate disturbing behavioural symptoms
  • Better access to resources and information
  • More time to plan for the future

Dementia - Treatments

Some causes of dementia are potentially reversible. However, there is presently no cure for the common causes of dementia such as Alzheimer’s Disease and Vascular Dementia.

Nevertheless, there are medications available to alleviate symptoms and enhance quality of life. Apart from medications, there are also behavioural therapies, counselling and education to improve care for patients with dementia and their families. Patients may also benefit from advice on appropriate care facilities and legal issues.

Dementia - Preparing for surgery

Dementia - Post-surgery care

Dementia - Other Information


Many new treatments are being developed for the prevention and treatment of dementia. There are ongoing clinical trials and other research efforts in Singapore. If you (or your caregiver) are keen to participate and contribute to improving the knowledge about dementing disease, please inform your doctor.

Where to seek support?

  • NNI @ TTSH Campus - Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Clinic
  • NNI @ SGH Campus Neurodegenerative Diseases Clinic
  • Alzheimer’s Disease Association of Singapore
  • Health Promotion Board

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