Dementia: Alzheimer's Disease and Social Care Diploma

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Unit DEM 301

Understand
the process and
experience of dementia

This unit provides you with the knowledge on the neurology
of dementia including the causes, difficulties and needs of
the person with dementia. This will help to support your
understanding of how people may experience dementia.
With the development of improved health care and healthier
lifestyles, people are living longer. With an increase in an ageing population come age-related conditions such as
dementia. Age is not the only cause of dementia as you will
discover within this unit.

In this unit you will learn about:
„„the neurology of dementia
„„the impact of recognition and diagnosis of dementia
„„how dementia care must be underpinned by a personcentred approach.

1

Level 3 Health & Social Care Diploma

1. Understand the neurology of dementia
1.1 Causes of dementia
The word ‘dementia’ is a term which describes a serious
deterioration in mental functions, such as memory,
language, orientation and judgement. However, the
causes are still not yet fully understood. Research in
this area is ongoing and to date a number of types of
dementia and their causes have been identified.
The brain is a complex organ and is divided up into
different areas that control different functions within the
body. The brain contains around 100 billion cells. In
dementia some of these cells stop working properly.
The part of the brain that this occurs in will affect how
that person thinks, remembers and communicates.
Senile dementia is a term that refers to dementia in
people aged over 65. It is not uncommon for people
under the age of 65 to develop dementia. This is known
as early onset dementia.

Cerebral
cortex

Ventricles

Healthy brain

Hippocampus
Cortical
shrinkage

Moderately
enlarged
ventricles

Mild
Alzheimer’s disease

Dementia is a major health condition which affects over
820,000 people in the UK. Worldwide, more than 35
million people are estimated to have dementia, with
4.6 million new cases being diagnosed every year.

Shrinking
hippocampus
Severe
cortical
shrinkage

Severely
enlarged
ventricles

Types and causes of dementia
Alzheimer’s disease
Many people ask if dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
are the same thing. The short answer is no. Alzheimer’s
disease is the most common cause of dementia. It is
responsible for approximately two-thirds of dementia in
older people. Alzheimer’s is caused by nerve cells dying
in certain areas of the brain. In addition to this, the
connections between affected nerve cells deteriorate. As
the disease progresses, it spreads and affects cells in
other parts of the brain. The cause of the brain cells
dying and the deterioration of the connectors is not fully
known.

2

Severe
Alzheimer’s disease

Severe
shrinkage of
hippocampus

Brain affected by dementia and unaffected brain.

Vascular dementia
Vascular dementia is a form of dementia caused by
damage to the brain through deprivation of oxygenated
blood. Oxygenated blood is carried around your body and
brain through arteries. Deoxygenated blood is carried
through your body in veins. It is these arteries and veins
that make up part of your vascular system. When an
organ in your body is deprived of blood, that organ (or
part of it) will die. This is what happens to the brain in
vascular dementia. The conditions which can cause
these problems are preventable and include high blood
pressure, heart problems, diabetes and high cholesterol.
When supporting people into leading a healthy lifestyle,
it is important to bear this condition in mind, in the
hopes of preventing the onset of vascular dementia.

Understand dementia

Rarer forms of dementia
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD)
CJD is a form of dementia caused by prion disease.
Prions are proteins which are found in mammals. When
these proteins cluster together in the brain, they cause
brain cells to die. When these...
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