Sadly, it is not yet possible to cure the illnesses that cause dementia, or reverse the problems they cause in the brain. Once a person has dementia, they will have it for the rest of their lives.
Each type of dementia is linked to a different pattern of changes in the brain, but even people with the same type of dementia may experience very different symptoms and problems.
This is because every brain is unique, shaped by the things that a person has learned and experienced in their lifetime. It’s very hard for doctors to say for certain how dementia will change a person’s brain, or to predict how long these changes will take.
We do know that most of the illnesses that cause dementia are progressive, which means that the symptoms change and get worse over time. Reading lists of typical symptoms can help you to understand the type of dementia that your relative has, but it can also be very worrying.
Remember that everyone experiences dementia in a different way. Some people develop new symptoms quickly. Others may have symptoms that develop slowly over many months or years.
People who have been diagnosed with dementia can still aim to live well, and can make the most of the time they have together with their family and friends. A healthy lifestyle that keeps the body and mind active can help to keep people with dementia well for longer.
Over time, the illnesses that cause dementia tend to damage more and more of a person’s brain. Eventually, they may damage the parts of the brain that control important processes in the body, and the person may die from their illness.
Not everybody who is diagnosed with dementia reaches this stage. Most people living with dementia are older than 65, and as people get older, many other types of illness become more common. They also become harder to recover from.
Like everyone else, a person with dementia may get one of these other types of life-limiting illnesses. Doctors, nurses and care workers help to monitor the health of people with dementia, to keep them as well as possible, for as long as possible.
This information was updated in December 2017 and is due for review in December 2019. Please contact us if you would like a version with references.