The Dementia Services Development Trust was formally created as a charity in 1988 in Scotland when a group of volunteers came together with the purpose of improving services for people with dementia and their carers in Scotland.  The first Trustees included academics, clinicians and other people who were concerned about the lack of education and training available for staff working in support of people affected by dementia.  The Scottish Government and a wide range of corporate and personal donors supported fundraising in the early days.

A primary aim was the creation of a Dementia Services Development Centre.  This first centre was emulated by the creation of centres across the UK and Ireland, and eventually across the world, as far away from Scotland as Australia.

Though closely associated with Scotland, the Trust has supported work across the world and highly values international links.  In later years the Trust moved its focus from primarily health and social care staff to include the wider community and direct support for families and people with dementia.

A fundamental aim of the Trust has always been to improve the public understanding of dementia, which it has done through the support of research and teaching based on evidence of what is practical and makes a difference.