Dementia occurs as a result of physical changes in the structure of the brain. These changes can affect memory, thinking, behaviour, personality and emotion. Because dementia is a progressive syndrome, symptoms will gradually worsen. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer's disease, although there are several other forms. No single factor has been identified as a cause for dementia or Alzheimer's disease. It is likely that a combination of factors, including age, genetic inheritance and environment are responsible.
There are around 50,000 people with dementia in New Zealand and for each of these people, there is a whole network of others around them that are affected too. Alzheimers New Zealand works with people with dementia, their family/whanau, friends and community. People of all ages, ethnicities and intellectual ability can get dementia. While it is more common in people over the age of 65, it can also affect younger people.
Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia (50-70%). As the disease progresses, physical changes occur in the structure of the brain. Brain cells die and the brain shrinks, especially in the inner parts of the temporal lobes. Plaques and tangles form in brain tissue and disrupt messages between brain cells, preventing the brain from working efficiently.
People with Alzheimer's disease experience a gradual decline in their ability to remember, understand, communicate and reason. Some medications are available, which may mask the progression of Alzheimer's disease in the early stages.
You can click here to take an interactive tour that explains how the brain works and how Alzheimer's affects it.
Other common forms of dementia include
Infection related dementia (AIDS-related cognitive impairment)
Dementia usually causes difficulties with some of the following:
- thinking and planning
- making decisions
- looking after yourself
- expressing thoughts
- understanding what others are saying
- finding your way around
- managing finances
Dementia is not:
- part of normal ageing
- something to be ashamed of or hidden away
- something that you have to face alone
For further information please go to our resource centre.
Alzheimers NZ 2014 Conference registrations open
Posted 29 July 2014
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Blood test for Alzheimer's disease
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Countdown Appeal now on
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Dementia and Driving Safety resource released
Posted 16 June 2014
World Dementia Council publishes Statement of Purpose
Posted 03 June 2014
Good news for the quality of care and support for people with dementia
Posted 03 June 2014
World Dementia Envoy addresses conference delegates
Posted 12 May 2014
World Dementia Council meets for the first time
Posted 02 May 2014