A healthy brain is so good at retrieving memories, thinking and solving problems that you don’t even notice it working. When you have practised a task many times, it starts to seem simple.
In fact, even simple tasks use your brain in many different ways. Think about all the different steps involved in eating a plate of food.
You weren’t born knowing how to do all these things. You had to learn them, and all this learning is stored in your brain. Each time you sit down to eat, one part of your brain remembers how to do all the different steps, and another helps you to put them in the right order.
People with dementia might forget words or names. They might forget what they’ve just said or done, or where they put something. They might not remember one or more of the steps needed to complete a task, or have trouble doing things in the right order or finishing something they started. Things that used to be easy become very difficult.
In the later stages of dementia, the things a person learned when they were very young might disappear from their memory. They may begin to have problems doing everyday things such as getting dressed and washing. Their brain may stop recognising the signals from their body telling them they need to eat, drink or go to the toilet. They may have trouble keeping themselves safe. When this happens, a person with dementia needs more help and support from other people.
This information was updated in November 2019 and is due for review in November 2021. Please contact us if you would like a version with references.