Photo of a fig

Dementia is a loss of mental skills that affects your daily life. It is different than the occasional trouble with memory that is part of aging. Dementia can cause problems with memory, thinking clearly, and planning. Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia among older people.


Symptoms of dementia vary from person to person. Symptoms usually appear gradually and may worsen with time.

Mild symptoms

  • confusion and memory loss
  • being disoriented and getting lost in familiar surroundings
  • changes in personality and judgment

Moderate symptoms

  • difficulty with activities of daily living, such as bathing or feeding
  • anxiety, suspiciousness, agitation, or depression
  • problems with sleeping
  • wandering or pacing
  • difficulty recognizing family and friends

Severe symptoms

  • loss of speech
  • loss of appetite and weight loss
  • loss of bladder and bowel control
  • total dependence on others for daily living

Living with dementia

Some people who have dementia can function well for a long time. But at some point it may become harder to do things that take planning, like making a list and going shopping.

Over time, the disease may make it hard to take care of yourself. Some people with dementia need others to help care for them. Many people are able to stay in their homes with professional helpers or family caregivers. Others may prefer to be in a facility that specializes in dementia.


Taking care of someone with dementia can be challenging, but we have information and other resources that can make it easier.

If you are caring for a parent or someone else with Alzheimer's or severe dementia, you can help make his or her life easier and safer. You may also need to make decisions about future care wishes, alternative living arrangements, and financial and legal matters.

Take care of yourself, too. Caregiving can be stressful, but support is available to help you and give you a break when you need it.

Support groups for caregivers are another way to get emotional support.

The Alzheimer's AssociationKaiser Permanente is not responsible for the content or policies of external Internet sites. also offers good information and support for people with dementia and their families.

Reviewed by: Andrew Bertagnolli, PhD, November 2015
Additional Kaiser Permanente reviewers

©2015 Kaiser Permanente