What is dementia?

Dementia is caused by different diseases that affect the brain.  The word ‘dementia’ describes a collection of symptoms. This may include memory loss and language difficulties. There are many types of dementia. The most common is Alzheimer’s dementia.  

Dementia is typically progressive. The symptoms tend to worsen with time and affect daily life.

Dementia isn't a natural part of ageing, but the risk increases as you age. Other risk factors include smoking and cardiovascular disease.

At present there is no known cure for dementia.  A healthy lifestyle may reduce your chances of developing dementia. What’s good for the heart is good for the head.

Alzheimer’s Society publishes fact sheets on dementia-related topics. Alzheimer's Research UK website publishes UK dementia statistics.

Dementia is an umbrella term for conditions involving cognitive impairment. Symptoms include memory loss, personality changes, and language issues.

Alzheimer’s Dementia is the most common type. It affects two-thirds of people living with dementia. Problems with short-term memory is usually the first noticeable sign.

Vascular Dementia is the second most common cause.  This type of dementia is caused when the oxygen supply to the brain fails. This is either following a stroke or over time through a series of small strokes.

Dementia with Lewy Bodies shares some traits with Parkinson’s disease. Symptoms can include disorientation and hallucinations. Problems with planning, reasoning and problem-solving are also symptoms. Short-term memory may be less affected.

Frontotemporal dementia involves damage, often in the front part of the brain. This includes Pick’s disease. Damage to the brain causes the symptoms of frontotemporal dementia. This includes changes in personality, behaviour and language difficulties. People may lose their ability to plan, organise and show empathy.

There are other rarer types of dementia. They result from Korsakoff’s syndrome and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). Progression of Multiple Sclerosis, Motor Neurone Disease and HIV/Aids can cause dementia.

What is different about early-onset dementia?
Certain types of dementia are more likely in people diagnosed under 65. This is called ‘early onset dementia’. The symptoms of dementia may be similar regardless of a person’s age. Younger people may have different needs and require different support. Frontotemporal dementia is a cause in people who develop dementia at a younger age.

Younger people with dementia experience a range of challenges. They are often different to those that older people face. Younger people are less likely to experience memory loss as an early symptom. Problems with behaviour, vision or language may occur first. They are likely to have aspects of their lives that will be affected. This includes:

  • their relationships, including with their children (if they have them)
  • their finances
  • employment (if they’re working) and daily activities
  • driving (if they drive)
  • their hobbies and interests.

This can make it hard for a younger person to adjust to a diagnosis. Dementia can be harder for younger people because it isn't expected. There is support available and planning ahead can make a big difference.

You can find more information about young-onset dementia here.

People with a learning disability are at greater risk of developing dementia at a younger age. This is more common for those with Down’s syndrome. The disease tends to start much earlier with symptoms appearing from 30 years old. It may be harder to diagnose at first. It is more likely that the dementia will progress quickly. Annual Health Checks for older people with learning disabilities include dementia screening.

For more information, visit the following websites:

  • Alzheimer’s Society website for details on the different types of dementia.
  • Advice regarding Coronavirus support for people affected by dementia.
  • Social Care Institute for Excellence website for details of a person’s journey with dementia.
  • Download a copy of the dementia guide.

The first changes people may notice are problems with memory. Symptoms may include trouble finding the right words, and getting lost. People may have trouble remembering dates and appointments. Other symptoms may include changes to personality and difficulty communicating. People may not see these difficulties themselves, although they may be obvious.

Each person is unique and will experience dementia in their own way. You may notice when a person:

  • Can remember things that happened a long time ago easier than recent events
  • Struggles to express how they feel or the level of pain they are experiencing
  • Forgets what has just been said
  • Uses repetitive speech or has difficulty finding the right words
  • Is uneasy in new surroundings
  • Gets lost in familiar surroundings or wanders
  • Exhibits confusion during acute illness
  • Has mood changes, anxiety, agitation at night or when under stress
  • Has visual hallucinations
  • Has problems recognising people or uniforms.

Loved ones may express worries about a person. This often includes changes in habits and behaviours.

How is dementia different from delirium?

Delirium is a change in a person’s mental state. It can present as confusion or a personality change. Delirium is preventable and reversible if identified quickly.  People with dementia can experience delirium. It is important to know how a person usually presents. This helps identify delirium.

Diagnosing dementia can be difficult when a current delirium is suspected.

A sudden decline in a person’s thinking may be something treatable. This could be anaemia, medication side effects or other infections.

Want to know more?

  • Click here for the Alzheimer’s Society website. This contains information about warning signs and symptoms.
  • Click here for the NHS website. You can find symptoms specific to the different types of dementia.

Mental Health Services for Older People – North Tyneside

We provide specialist treatment for people living with dementia in North Tyneside usually in their own homes and also in our hospitals, our memory clinic and in care homes.

In Northumberland, specialist treatment and support is available from Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust visit the link for more info.

Community Mental Health Teams

There are two Community Mental Health teams for people living in their own homes, one covering Whitley Bay and Tynemouth, the other North Shields and Wallsend.  There is also a dedicated team, the Nursing Home Team, for people living in care homes.

Referral is usually from your GP.  The team will contact you to arrange to see you, usually in your own home.  The person who comes to see you might be a community psychiatric nurse, a social worker, an occupational therapist or a psychiatrist.  They will agree a plan with you including any necessary treatment.

Memory Clinic

Our memory clinic is part of our outpatient service at Priory Day Hospital.  We will provide you with assessments and treatment of memory problems associated with dementia.  We also offer support for families of people living with dementia.  Please note you need to be referred by your GP to access the service.

Liaison Service

If you are a patient in a medical or surgical ward at North Tyneside General Hospital for a physical health problem, but also have mental health needs, you can be assessed by our liaison team.  You may be seen by a nurse, or a psychiatrist who will look at your current mental health needs.

Mental health inpatient wards

For some patients, staying in hospital on a mental health ward for treatment will be the best option and our purpose-built unit at North Tyneside General Hospital provides a bright and welcoming area.  This specially designed facility has three separate wards, two of which are to care for patients living with dementia.

The Early Onset Dementia Service

If you are under 65 years old and have concerns about your memory or have a diagnosis of dementia, you may be seen by our early onset dementia team  This consists of a community psychiatric nurse and a support worker with input from a consultant psychiatrist and a psychologist.  Once you have been referred by our GP, the team will work with you to develop a plan of care and treatment.


Membery Clinic Online Consultation

video-call-blue-250x222.png  Where appropriate you may be asked to attend a consultation online via a video call.

Rather than travelling to your appointment, you go into the clinic’s online ‘waiting area’. We will be notified when you arrive and your clinician will join you when ready

You don’t need to set up an account and no information you enter is stored.

If you have been given an online appointment please click on the following link to start the consultation at your appointment time – online consultation

Mental Health for Older People Psychology

video-call-blue-250x222.png Where appropriate you may be asked to attend a consultation online via a video call.

Rather than travelling to your appointment, you go into the clinic’s online ‘waiting area’. We will be notified when you arrive and your clinician will join you when ready

You don’t need to set up an account and no information you enter is stored.

If you have been given an online appointment please click on the following link to start the consultation at your appointment time – online consultation

For more information about dementia and caring for someone living with dementia see below:

Alzeihmer’s Society - Alzeihmer’s Society provides information about the condition, support for people living with dementia and their families including online forums, helpline, research and resources.

Age UK - Age UK provides information and advice along with social and leisure activities in the North East

Dementia Friends - Dementia Friends is about giving more people an understanding of dementia and the small things that could make a difference to people living in their community. Find out more and sign up by visiting the Dementia Friends website.


Support for families

North Tyneside Carer’s Centre and Carers Northumberland offer information and support to people who look after someone living with an illness or disability including dementia.


John’s Campaign supports the carers of inpatients with dementia to continue to provide care for their loved ones whilst they are an inpatient in our hospitals. The campaign allows carers:

  • Flexible visiting arrangements
  • Free parking
  • Discounted meals

If you want to find out more, please speak to the nurse in charge of your loved one's ward who can explain more and provide you with a carer's card.

If you would like to find out more about the campaign, please click here.

Where is John’s Campaign supported within Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust?

John’s campaign is supported across all Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust sites and wards.


How are we supporting John’s Campaign?

  • More flexible visiting hours for the carer of a person living with dementia who is currently receiving care and/or treatment at one of our hospitals.
  • If flexible visiting is felt to be in the best interests of the person living with dementia, a ‘Carer’s Passport’ should be provided. This is a small card which identifies that the carer is currently supporting a person living with dementia during their hospital stay and are being supported to visit the ward outside of normal visiting times. (A carer’s information leaflet is also available – link to this here to be added once leaflet available)
  • The carer of a person living with dementia, who wishes to continue to provide care and support during an inpatient stay will be supported to access free parking at the hospital site where the person living with dementia is a current inpatient.
  • The carer of a person living with dementia who wishes to continue to provide care and support during an inpatient stay will be supported to access discounted meal prices (staff rate) at the hospital restaurant where the person with dementia is currently an inpatient.


Ward teams can contact the Acute Admiral Nurse Service if any queries about the implementation of John’s campaign arise.

We can be contacted on: 0191 2828923 or AdmiralNursesNHCT@Northumbria-healthcare.nhs.uk