ViewClose Menu
Home | Guides | What is dementia?

Download: What is dementia? or read below


What is dementia?

A brief summary of some of the causes and symptoms of dementia.

What is dementia?

Dementia is the collective term for a group of illnesses that damage the brain and affect what it can do: including remembering, thinking and communicating. There around 100 causes of dementia: the most common are Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, Lewy Body dementia and frontotemporal dementia. 

An estimated 90,000 people in Scotland have dementia. That number is likely to rise steeply as the population ages. Yet dementia it is not a normal part of ageing: only one in six people over age 80 have dementia. Scientists have found that as people get older some change in brain function can be expected: for example, they may need a little bit more thinking time [1]. Dementia also affects younger people: 12 percent of people with dementia are under age 70.

Signs and symptoms

The signs and symptoms of dementia can vary hugely. Not only are there different kinds of dementia: everyone is an individual, and no two people will be affected by any type of dementia in exactly the same way.

There are however signs and symptoms that typically appear in certain kinds of dementia. This is because different parts of the brain tend to be damaged in the early stages of different types of dementia. As time goes by the damage will become more widespread, and different kinds of dementia may look more alike in their later stages.

Some causes of dementia

Alzheimer’s disease can start in a part of the brain vital for forming memories.  Damage to this brain area can result in someone struggling to find the right word in conversation, forgetting the names of people and things, repeating themselves without being aware of it, and forgetting familiar faces. 

Posterior Cortical Atrophy is a rare form of dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease that, in its early stages, affects parts of the brain vital for judging depth and distance, and for making sense of what we see. Damage in these brain areas can make people clumsier, and they can increasingly struggle with things such as parking a car or getting dressed. Activities such as reading and using a computer can be more difficult for them. They might fail to spot things right under their nose, or be unable to tell coins and notes apart when handling money.

Frontotemporal dementia typically starts in the front of the brain.  In its early stages it can have some effect on memory and language: but often it’s changes in someone’s behaviour that are more noticeable.  They may be less motivated, less kind, less polite, or have less self-control.  Damage to the frontal lobe of the brain can also affect someone’s ability to learn, solve problems, set goals, follow step-by-step instructions, and focus on getting a task done.

Lewy-Body dementia is related to Parkinson’s disease and people living with it can have many of the same physical symptoms, such as slower movement and tremors.  Also common in its early stages are sudden swings in alertness, hallucinations (seeing and hearing things that aren’t there) and delusions (unshakeable beliefs that don’t match reality). 

Vascular dementia is caused by problems with the supply of blood to the brain, for example as a result of a stroke. The early symptoms will depend on the areas of the brain that have been damaged. Sometimes there is a slow narrowing of blood vessels in the brain which means symptoms get worse only gradually. However sometimes symptoms get worse very suddenly as a result of mini-strokes that the person experiencing them may not even be aware of. You can find out more about early signs of the different kinds of dementia online:

Other helpful guides | View all guides

'S ann an Ìle: introducing a Gaelic port à beul, led by Joy Dunlop

Luminate@Home: 'S ann an Ìle: introducing a Gaelic port à beul - song lyrics, sheet music and piano track.

Come and Sing Online - Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the features of the event, to help you decide if it is right for you, your family or friends.

Communicating with people with dementia

Helpful tips and strategies ­for communicating effectively with people with dementia.

Copying Lyrics and Sheet Music and Making Arrangements

This guide explains what you should do if the songs you are singing with your group are in copyright and you want to copy lyrics for song sheets, copy sheet music or make a musical arrangement.

Copyright and Licensing for Choirs and Singing Groups

This guide explains what copyright is and how you will know if the songs your group is singing are in copyright.

Dementia Inclusive Singing Network Trailer

Take a peek at the difference the Dementia Inclusive Singing Network can make.

How to apply for funding for dementia inclusive singing activities

A recording of an online training session for members of the Dementia Inclusive Singing Network which took place online on 31st May, 2023.

How to sing together online

This film explores how singing groups and choirs from across Scotland have continued to support the inclusion of people living with dementia online and remotely during the coronavirus pandemic.

Kitchen Drumming Band - rhythms sheet, music track and videos to get you inspired

Luminate@Home: Kitchen Drumming Band - rhythms sheet, music track and videos to get you inspired.

Luminate@Home: ‘S ann an Ìle: introducing a Gaelic port à beul, led by Joy Dunlop

In this film, Gaelic singer Joy Dunlop will take you through her own arrangement of the toe-tapping Gaelic song, ‘S ann an Ìle.

Luminate@Home: Kitchen Drumming Band led by Jane Bentley

In this film, percussionist Jane Bentley invites you to grab the wooden spoons and get drumming!

Luminate@Home: Singin Scotland, led by Christine Kydd

In this film, singer Christine Kydd leads you through two traditional songs. The songs are accessible for all ages and abilities. Enjoy!

Luminate@Home: The Bressay Lullaby led by Corrina Hewat

In this film, singer and harpist Corrina Hewat will take you through her own arrangement of traditional Shetland song, The Bressay Lullaby. Enjoy!

Making online singing activities more dementia inclusive

There are many things that can make an online singing activity more accessible for people with dementia.

Making spaces more dementia inclusive

As a group or organisation including people who have dementia in activities there are changes that can be made in premises, often for low or no cost.

Performing in Public and Recording

This guide explains what you should do if the songs you are performing in public are in copyright or you want to record your group singing songs that are in copyright.

Singin Scotland, led by Christine Kydd

Luminate@Home: Singin Scotland - song lyrics and accompaniment tracks.

Speaking about dementia

How to talk and write about dementia in a way which is positive and inclusive of people living with the condition. ­

The Bressay Lullaby - song lyrics, sheet music and harp track

Luminate@Home: The Bressay Lullaby (from Shetland) - song lyrics, sheet music and harp track.

Top 10 Tips: For setting up a dementia inclusive shanty choir

Here you will find a useful resource from the fantastic storyteller and shanty-woman, Jan Bee Brown, who outlines her 10 top tips for setting up a dementia inclusive shanty choir.

Why sing together?

This guide will give you some information about how singing together helps our health and well-being, and it includes a short list of publications and websites that you can look at for more information.

This website uses cookies
This site uses cookies to enhance your browsing experience. We use necessary cookies to make sure that our website works. We’d also like to set analytics cookies that help us make improvements by measuring how you use the site. By clicking “Allow All”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyse site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.
These cookies are required for basic functionalities such as accessing secure areas of the website, remembering previous actions and facilitating the proper display of the website. Necessary cookies are often exempt from requiring user consent as they do not collect personal data and are crucial for the website to perform its core functions.
A “preferences” cookie is used to remember user preferences and settings on a website. These cookies enhance the user experience by allowing the website to remember choices such as language preferences, font size, layout customization, and other similar settings. Preference cookies are not strictly necessary for the basic functioning of the website but contribute to a more personalised and convenient browsing experience for users.
A “statistics” cookie typically refers to cookies that are used to collect anonymous data about how visitors interact with a website. These cookies help website owners understand how users navigate their site, which pages are most frequently visited, how long users spend on each page, and similar metrics. The data collected by statistics cookies is aggregated and anonymized, meaning it does not contain personally identifiable information (PII).
Marketing cookies are used to track user behaviour across websites, allowing advertisers to deliver targeted advertisements based on the user’s interests and preferences. These cookies collect data such as browsing history and interactions with ads to create user profiles. While essential for effective online advertising, obtaining user consent is crucial to comply with privacy regulations.