Dementia is a progressive illness impairing the mental function of many men and women across the UK, with an incidence of 180,000 new cases each year in England and Wales

Different modalities of cognitive function can be affected, including memory, language, orientation, behaviour, attention, visual-spatial functions, executive functions and motor control.

Dementia is more common in the ageing population and, therefore, it is an important consideration when seeing older patients in the ED.

Patients may present with problems secondary to dementia, whether or not the diagnosis has been made previously. Alternatively, patients may be known to suffer from dementia and present with concomitant health problems.

Patients’ complex needs present a challenge to carers and services, which can compromise patient autonomy, and the well being of carers.

Learning bite: It is important that emergency physicians are aware of the different types of dementia, the disease process, clinical spectra, initial diagnostic tools and possible treatments to facilitate patient-centred care for sufferers of dementia, and their carers.

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