Understanding Dementia

Part 5: Associated Illnesses

The word dementia is a general term that refers to many different diseases. Different types of dementia are caused by different physical changes to the brain. Some dementias are reversible, meaning that they can be treated and cured. Some are irreversible, meaning that there is no cure yet.

Examples of other dementias include:

  • Vascular dementia
  • Lewy body dementia
  • Frontotemporal/Pick's dementia
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease

You may also hear about connections between dementia and illnesses such as:

  • Down syndrome
  • Mental illnesses
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome


Mental Health and Dementia

What do mental illness and dementia have in common?

Mental illnesses (like schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disease) are disorders of the brain. So is dementia.

Disorders of the brain can cause problems in one or more of the brain’s three main functions: how we move, think and feel. In the case of dementia, it is “cognition” - the thinking, knowing, problem-solving and judgement function of our brain - that is primarily affected.

Dementia and other mental illnesses share other important similarities:

  • The family doctor is usually the first healthcare professional that people see for help.
  • People with dementia often experience depression, a psychiatric condition.

People with dementia may face stigma, which involves isolation, disengagement, and susceptibility to discrimination.

Depression in Older Adults

What is depression?

Everyone feels sad sometimes. We all have bad days and time when we feel down. If you feel sad, hopeless, or bored with things you normally enjoy for weeks or months, you may be experiencing depression.

Depression is a treatable illness that can affect your feelings, body, and relationships. It can be hard to picture ever feeling good again. Depression often does not get better on its own. Without treatment it may even last for years. If you have any of these symptoms for more than two weeks, seek help.

Download and print the handout below to learn more about the symptoms of depression, how it is diagnosed and things you can do to start feeling better.

Source: Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Mental Health

Depression in Older Adult. Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Mental Health

More Learning Resources

Other types of dementia