What is dementia?

The below information is only a snapshot of dementia, the second leading cause of death in Australia. For more information about available services and support available to you please call the Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500 or visit https://www.dementia.org.au/support.

What is dementia?

Dementia describes a collection of symptoms that are caused by disorders affecting the brain. It is not one specific disease. Dementia affects thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday tasks. It is a broad term used to describe a loss of memory, intellect, rationality, social skills and physical functioning. There are many types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia and Lewy body disease. Dementia can happen to anybody, but it is more common after the age of 65.

What are the early signs of dementia?

The early signs of dementia are very subtle and vague and may not be immediately obvious. Some common symptoms may include:

- Progressive and frequent memory loss
- Confusion
- Personality change
- Apathy and withdrawal
- Loss of ability to perform everyday tasks.

Who gets dementia?

Most people with dementia are older, but it is important to remember that not all older people get dementia. It is not a normal part of ageing. Dementia can happen to anybody, but it is more common after the age of 65 years. People in their 40's and 50's can also have dementia.

Can dementia be inherited?

This will depend on the cause of the dementia, so it is important to have a firm medical diagnosis.

If you are concerned about the risk of inheriting dementia, consult your doctor or contact Dementia Australia to speak to a counsellor.

Most cases of dementia are not inherited.

Australian statistics

For more information about dementia statistics please visit: https://www.dementia.org.au/statistics.

Dementia is the second leading cause of death of Australians contributing to 5.4% of all deaths in males and 10.6% of all deaths in females each year

In 2016 dementia became the leading cause of death among Australian females, surpassing heart disease which has been the leading cause of death for both males and females since the early 20th century. Females account for 64.4% of all dementia related deaths

In 2018, there is an estimated 425,416 Australians living with dementia:

191,367 (45%) males
234,049 (55%) females

Without a medical breakthrough, the number of people with dementia is expected to increase to 536,164 by 2025 and almost 1,100,890 by 2056

Currently an estimated 250 people are joining the population with dementia each day. The number of new cases of dementia will increase to 318 people per day by 2025 and more than 650 people by 2056

Three in 10 people over the age of 85 and almost one in 10 people over 65 have dementia

In 2018, there is an estimated 26,443 people with younger onset dementia, expected to rise to 29,375 people by 2025 and 42,252 people by 2056

An average of 36 people died per day where dementia was the underlying cause of death in 2016. Of the 13,126 people that lost their lives, 8,447 were female

The impact of dementia in Australia

In 2018, dementia is estimated to cost Australia more than $15 billion. By 2025, the total cost of dementia is predicted to increase to more than $18.7 billion in today’s dollars, and by 2056, to more than $36.8 billion

Dementia is the single greatest cause of disability in older Australians (aged 65 years or older) and the third leading cause of disability burden overall

People with dementia account for 52% of all residents in residential aged care facilities