How does dementia affect everyday life?


By Ed Pinches | Wednesday 23 October 2019

At Alzheimer’s Research UK, we have the opportunity to talk to, work with and befriend many inspirational and passionate people. All too often, these people have personal experience of dementia – in fact 1 in 2 people know someone affected by dementia. They may not have a diagnosis themselves, but often they are carers, loved ones, or people who offer unwavering support to friends.

It’s clear from speaking to our passionate supporters, that they want to see a life-changing new treatment for dementia. Current treatments can help with symptoms for a time, but today there are no medicines to slow down, prevent or treat the underlying diseases that cause dementia.

There are many ways an emerging new treatment could be judged as a ‘success’. Arguably the most important way is by improving the day-to-day aspects of life that dementia makes so hard.


What day-to-day activities does dementia affect?

It’s true that problems with short term memory are a key symptom of Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, and can have a profound effect on many aspects of daily life. But dementia can take away so much more than memory.

Although a person’s own experience of living with dementia varies, as does their needs for care and support, common everyday challenges for people with dementia include washing, getting dressed, eating and bathing.

Dementia is a progressive condition. As the diseases that cause dementia advance, the symptoms get worse and someone is likely to need more help carrying out tasks that they may have once taken for granted.

At first, people may need reminding to bathe or need help with tasks such as hair washing, while in the later stages of dementia, a person may not be able to bathe at all without help.



To help explain some of the common and varied challenges people with dementia face, we’ve created a new interactive online tool. It may help you understand the aspects of someone’s day-to-day life dementia can affect – some of these may surprise you.

The tool was specially designed by Alzheimer’s Research UK, and developed alongside expert dementia researchers, doctors who see people with dementia regularly in their clinic and people with experience of caring someone with dementia.

The tool also lets you explore how we’re working to make life easier for people with dementia by developing pioneering new treatments.

So, what would new drugs do to help?

The dementia treatments currently available temporarily stabilise or improve a person’s symptoms, helping them to maintain their ability to carry out day-to-day tasks for longer. This can make a big difference to someone’s quality of life but, unfortunately, current treatments don’t work for everybody.

Our scientists are working hard to produce life-changing treatments that make real breakthroughs for the day-to-day lives of people with dementia.

One key measure of success for these treatments is to see whether they improve memory and thinking skills. But as this blog explains, it’s improvements in many aspects of day-to-day life that could have the biggest positive effect on a person with dementia and their family.



Symptomatic treatments, similar to those already available, could help make these improvements. But longer-term improvements in day-to-day life are more likely to come from transformational new treatments that can actually slow or stop the underlying diseases behind dementia, like Alzheimer’s, and protect the brain from damage.

For any new disease-modifying treatment to be approved for use in people, it would have to benefit a person’s ability to carry out daily tasks in clinical trials through specialised tests.

The online tool will help you to understand what developing a treatment could mean for someone with dementia and their families.

Find out more about the diseases that cause dementia

Our about dementia information pages are a good place to start to find out more. You can get an overview of the different diseases that cause dementia, more information about the symptoms associated with these diseases and treatments that are currently available.

If you have further questions about dementia or want to know more about dementia research and how you and your loved ones can get involved, our Dementia Research Infoline can help. Call us on 0300 111 5 111 or email us at

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Ed Pinches

Team: Science news