There are many different types of dementia, so it is important to understand the differences, and be aware of the symptoms, causes and challenges of each. Here, we outline the most common types of dementia, so you know what to expect if a loved one is diagnosed with this disease.
Dementia is a generic term used to describe a number of progressive illnesses that affect a person’s cognitive ability. Though every case is different and symptoms do not always follow in an exact order, the Dementia Society of America outlines the main stages of the condition as ranging from mild cognitive impairment (first signs of forgetfulness), to mild and moderate dementia (short and long-term memory loss, personality changes) to severe dementia (no longer able to communicate or function properly).
Dementia is a slow progressing degenerative disease, so your loved one’s care needs will increase over time. As a result, it is important to plan ahead so that your mom or dad can maintain a good quality of life - for as long as possible.
Types of Dementia Explained
Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common type of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of all cases, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. It is caused by deposits of the protein fragment beta-amyloid (plaques) and twisted strands of the protein tau (tangles), as well as nerve cell damage and cell death in the brain.
Early symptoms include short-term memory loss, apathy, and depression, while later symptoms include impaired communication, poor judgment, disorientation, confusion, changes in behavior, and difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking.
While early stage Alzheimer’s can require the assistance of a family caregiver, as the disease develops, your loved one will probably need full-time care in order to stay safe and comfortable while living at home, so it is important to plan ahead for such eventualities.
Formerly known as post-stroke dementia, vascular dementia accounts for 10-15% of dementia cases, according to medical journal The Lancet. It is caused when vessels supplying blood to the brain become clogged or narrowed, restricting or depriving the brain of oxygen, resulting in the death of brain cells.
Whereas the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s include memory loss, those with Vascular Dementia are likely to first show signs of impaired judgment, as well as an inability to make decisions or organize their lives. The level of impairment on cognitive and physical functions depends on the extent of the injury to the brain caused by loss of blood flow or bleeding in the brain. Therefore, people with Vascular Dementia, may need assistance at home from an early stage, to help them organize their daily activities and put a structure in place to ensure they stay safe and comfortable.
Lewy Body Dementia
When Lewy Bodies - abnormal clumps of the alpha-synuclein protein – form in the cortex of the brain, dementia is the result.
Memory loss and cognitive issues are common, but people with Lewy Body Dementia are also more likely to have early-stage symptoms such as disturbed sleep, visual hallucinations, slowness, imbalance and other mobility issues similar to those seen in patients with Parkinson’s Disease.
As a result, it is advisable to seek the help of a Home Care company, who can assess your loved one’s needs and highlight any added fall risks that may be present in the home.
According to the US National Institutes of Health, brain abnormalities linked to more than one cause of dementia (such as Lewy BodY and Alzheimer’s occurring simultaneously) are usually diagnosed as Mixed Dementia, a condition that is now recognized as more common than previously thought.
As a combination of more than one dementia type, the symptoms can include any and all of the symptoms associated with each individual diagnosis.
Though most commonly considered a condition that affects mobility, Parkinson’s can also affect the brain and result in a progressive dementia similar to that seen in Lewy Body or Alzheimer’s sufferers.
Alpha-synuclein protein clumps begin to form in the substantia nigra part of the brain, and are thought to cause degeneration of the nerve cells that produce dopamine.
As a result, the mobility issues associated with Parkinson’s worsen, with other symptoms similar to those with Lewy Body or Alzheimer’s also occurring.
This means your loved one will require extra assistance at home, not just with moving around, but with daily activities that they are no longer able to plan or perform.
Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD)
This form of dementia can include a number of cognitive conditions such as primary progressive aphasia, Pick’s disease, corticobasal degeneration and progressive supranuclear palsy.
FTD affects nerve cells in the front and side of the brain, resulting in symptoms including personality and behavioral changes, and difficulty communicating. It should be noted that people with FTD tend to develop symptoms at a younger age (around 60), and do not live as long as those with conditions such as Alzheimer’s.
With this condition, it is important to put a Home Care plan in place as soon as possible, and to plan for intensive, full-time assistance.
Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD)
CJD is a rare, fatal brain disorder, usually transmitted to humans through animals, whereby misfolded prion proteins cause other proteins in the brain to misfold and malfunction.
This is a rapidly degenerative disease that impairs memory and coordination, causing severe behavioral changes, and requires intensive full-time care.
With this condition, a single defective gene causes abnormalities in a brain protein that gradually leads to worsening symptoms, including abnormal involuntary movements, a severe decline in cognitive skills, depression, and other changes in mood and personality.
This condition also requires an immediate increase in the level of care and assistance your loved one will need.
A severe thiamine (Vitamin B-1) deficiency can lead to this condition that is most commonly caused by alcohol misuse. When thiamine levels are very low, brain cells can’t generate enough energy to function properly, leading to severe memory problems.
However, people with this condition, while experiencing serious memory loss, can often experience no impairment in their thinking and social skills.
As outlined above, there are many different kinds of dementia, and it is important to know exactly what diagnosis your loved one has been given in order to understand what you as a family caregiver should expect, and what level of care may be needed to maintain their quality of life and independence for as long as possible.
How Home Care Can Help When Your Loved One is Diagnosed with Dementia
With some conditions, the level of assistance your loved one will need can be minimal at first, before gradually increasing to the point where you are no longer able to provide the care they need at home, on your own.
As your loved one’s condition deteriorates, or preferably before there is a serious decline, you should consider how hiring a Home Care company can help. A Home Care Aide can provide a tailored Dementia Care program, to help with day to day activities such as personal care (bathing, toileting, dressing, etc), as well as meal preparation and medication reminders.
They can also provide ongoing supervision to ensure your loved one is getting the care at home they need, can assist with light housekeeping and transportation, and can engage your loved one in cognitively stimulating activities.
This can be of great help not just to your loved one, but to you as the family caregiver too. As the symptoms of dementia increase, you may begin to experience compassion fatigue and increased levels of stress, as care for your loved one takes up more and more of your time. A Home Care Aide can help relieve some of the pressure, providing you with the respite you need, and the comfort of knowing that compassionate and experienced care is still being provided.
As your loved one’s condition deteriorates, a Home Care Aide can also provide ongoing communication with you, your family, and additional care providers, to ensure that evolving circumstances are met with the solutions they need, and to ensure that you are fully-prepared for what the future holds.
Dementia, in any of its forms, presents life-changing challenges for your loved one, and for yourself, but Home Care can be the helping hand you need to cope at such a difficult time.
To find out how the experienced team at Ezra Home Care can help when your loved one is diagnosed with a form of dementia, please call and speak with our dedicated staff.