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Dementia is an umbrella term to describe a wide range of progressive neurological conditions. Although most people experiencing dementia are older, sometimes younger people are affected too.

We have provided this information as a general starting point.  However, it is important to remember that everyone’s journey with dementia will be different. We recommend arranging a time to speak to your own trusted health professional who can help you manage your own personal situation.

The information below has been compiled by Dr Chris Perkins, author of Dementia: What You Need to Know.

It reflects the evidence-based practice and understandings of the symptoms of dementia.

The journey of dementia can be challenging and confusing, and it can be difficult to find the information you need from multiple places in NZ. The Harris List is a dementia friendly website of resources that makes it easy to find that information and support.

What is Dementia

Dementia is a progressive condition which means the symptoms will gradually get worse. Over time, most functions of the brain will be affected. How quickly and in what way dementia progresses depends on each individual.

Even though everyone’s experience of dementia is different, common symptoms include loss of memory, loss of ability to recognize people or objects, loss of sense of direction, loss of ability to understand speech or to communicate with speech, loss of problem solving skills and loss of ability to learn how to carry out new tasks.

It is important to understand that loss of memory doesn’t necessarily mean loss of identity. Long term memories of early life, achievements, interests and relationships are in most cases reserved until late in the disease process.

Diagnosing Dementia

What should you look out for? And when should you be concerned? Use this information to understand the early signs of dementia, and how a diagnosis is determined.

Book an appointment with your GP:
1) Ask for a thorough physical, neurological and social evaluation.
2) Write down a list of concerns prior to your appointment and we recommend taking someone with you.
3) Your GP may ask a specialist to help in establishing a diagnosis.
4) There is no one test to show whether someone has dementia.

Dementia can only be diagnosed by excluding other possible causes of the symptoms. This is why a full medical assessment is important.

Getting a timely diagnosis will:
1) Allow you to access support, treatment and advice to help you navigate your dementia journey more easily.
2) Enable you to benefit from medication that may support symptoms.
3) Set up a strong network of support through your referral Dementia NZ can help you contact your nearest Dementia office. We can provide information, education, resources and support to you and those around you.
4) All you to organise, plan and live your life in full.

Information for Family and Friends

The impact of a dementia diagnosis can be wide reaching. This information is designed for the support network of someone diagnosed with dementia, and is a good place to start if you’re wondering about the best way to support your loved one.


Communication may become one of the most obvious challenges in a journey with dementia. These are some recommended strategies to help carers and family members to interact more effectively with loved ones.

Behaviour That Challenges

While everyone is different, it’s likely you may experience behavior that may challenge other people. With some practical strategies you’ll be better prepared to understand and manage new behavior.

Early Planning

Taking care of financial and legal affairs early can make a huge difference later on. Here are some tips on how to organise financial and legal affairs and the people or organisations who can help.


Alzheimer's Disease

What’s the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia? This help sheet has more information on Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, as well as its causes, progression and treatment.

Lewy Body Dementia

Lewy Body disease (also known as Lewy Body dementia) is a form of dementia with particular characteristics making it different from other dementias. This help sheet outlines some important information you should know.

Vascular Dementia

Vascular dementia is a specific type of dementia. This help sheet outlines the types of vascular dementia, and their causes, diagnosis, and treatment.

Frontotemporal Dementia

Frontotemporal dementia is an umbrella term for a group of disorders affecting the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. We’ve put together more information on its different forms, as well as some helpful information related to these disorders.

Alcohol Related Dementia and Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome

Alcohol related dementia and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome are different to other dementia disorders. This help sheet talks through their causes, symptoms and treatment.

Younger Onset Dementia

Younger onset, or early onset dementia, is a diagnosis under the age of 65. This help sheet covers some helpful information, in particular around the importance of a correct diagnosis and caring for someone with younger onset dementia.

Down Syndrome and Alzheimer's Disease

Managing a dementia diagnosis alongside an intellectual disability such as Down Syndrome presents unique challenges. Get an understanding of the link between Down syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease and find out where to find additional support.

Disinhibited Behaviours

With an understanding and simple strategies in place, it’s easier to manage disinhibited behaviours when they occur. Get an understanding disinhibited behaviours, the causes, and strategies for carers and family members in this help sheet.

Hallucinations and False Ideas

Not everyone will have these symptoms, but it can be helpful to understand some of the causes of hallucinations delusions, paranoia, and confabulation – and how families and carers can deal with them.

Brain Health

Keeping your brain healthy is essential for living a fulfilling, healthy and long life. Whether you are old, young or in-between, there are simple changes you can make to improve and protect your brain health.

Find Local Help - Dementia New Zealand Network