Why do simple things become difficult for people with dementia?

When a person has dementia, their brain starts to forget the things they have learned. It can't do things in the right order and it starts making mistakes.

When you were very young, you didn’t know how to walk, talk, play, or eat. You had to learn these things.

As you grow up, you keep learning new things every day. Everything you learn is stored in your brain.

Your brain also helps you to put together all the steps you learn in the right order, so you can do things like eat your dinner or kick a football.

A healthy brain is so good at remembering, thinking and solving problems that you don’t even notice it working.

Things that you’ve practised many times start to seem simple. But even simple tasks use our brain in many different ways. Think about all the different steps involved in getting yourself a glass of water.

When a person has dementia, their brain starts to forget the things they have learned, and has trouble putting them in the right order. At first people might forget words or names. They might forget what they’ve just said or where they put something, or get confused when they’re trying to do things.

Sometimes people with dementia can lose interest in activities they used to enjoy, and so are less likely to even try to do them.


As dementia affects more of their brain, a person starts to forget bigger things. They might not recognise what objects are or what they’re used for. They might have trouble with some of the steps needed to complete a task. They might get halfway through doing one thing, and start something else instead. Things that used to be easy for them to do become very difficult.

The brain is like a jigsaw. As the dementia ges worse the jigsaw breaks up and pieces can be lost forever.


Over time, everything they have learned over their lifetime might disappear from their memory. Someone with dementia may find it really difficult to do things like getting dressed, washing, eating or going to the toilet. They might not know where they are, and get lost easily. They may have trouble keeping themselves safe. They need lots more help and support from other people.

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This information was updated in November 2021 and is due for review in November 2023. Please contact us if you would like a version with references.