Dementia is a group of symptoms affecting cognitive abilities, such as memory and understanding. It’s devastating for the affected individual and their families, often leading to changes in behavior and a decline in the quality of life. While dementia has no known cure, it’s vital to know what it is and the different types associated with it.
It’s also important to understand how we can better care for those living with dementia. From Alzheimer’s to Lewy Body dementia, there are varying types that all exhibit different characteristics and degrees of severity. With that said, take a look at the different types of dementia below:
1. Vascular Dementia
Vascular dementia is caused by a lack of blood supply to the brain. It’s triggered by a stroke, as well as other small strokes or blood vessel blockages that can cause further damage and disrupt brain function. This type of dementia is responsible for around 10-20% of all cases and reduces problem-solving, reasoning, and memory.
2. Alzheimer’s Disease
This is the most commonly diagnosed form of dementia. It progresses slowly over time and is responsible for memory loss, confusion, and difficulty when it comes to problem-solving and language. It’s caused by protein deposits known as beta-amyloid that form on the brain and interrupt functioning.
Also, there may be gene mutations that cause a person to be more prone to developing Alzheimer’s. The gene apolipoprotein E4 (APOE) increases the risk of this type of dementia and is found in around a third of those affected.
3. Lewy Body Dementia
Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) is caused by abnormal protein deposits called Lewy bodies, which build up in the brain’s cortex and disrupt the neural pathways. It’s the second most common cause of dementia, with symptoms often similar to Alzheimer’s, including confusion, memory loss, and visual hallucinations. In addition, those with LBD may experience tremors or stiffness in the body and difficulty sleeping or staying awake.
4. Frontotemporal Dementia
This type of dementia is linked to shrinkage in the frontal and temporal lobes, the areas of the brain associated with decision-making and behavior. It’s most common in people under 65 and affects personality, behavior, speech, and language. Those affected may display inappropriate behaviors, difficulty speaking or understanding, and a lack of insight into their own condition.
5. Mixed Dementia
This condition occurs when two or more types of dementia are present, such as those listed above. It’s the third most common form of dementia, and it’s becoming increasingly diagnosed as research grows. It may include symptoms from the other types of dementia, making diagnosis more complicated.
6. Risk Factors for Dementia
While you may be able to fight against the onset of dementia, there are some risk factors that can increase the likelihood. Here are a few of them:
Your family history is one of the main risk factors for developing dementia. Having close family members with this condition increases your chances, particularly if it’s Alzheimer’s. Thankfully, there are tests that you can take to check for the gene mutations that’ll increase your risk of getting dementia.
Unfortunately, age is one of the main factors that can’t be avoided. As you age, your risk of developing dementia increases as well. After the age of 65, your chances of getting it drastically incline. However, dementia can occur in younger people too.
Those with Down Syndrome are at a higher risk of developing dementia as they get older. Nearly 50 % of individuals with Down syndrome in their 60s have Alzheimer’s, making it important for them to receive regular medical check-ups throughout their life.
Conditions Associated With Dementia
There are some medical conditions that are closely linked to dementia, which include:
Traumatic Brain Injury
Severe head injury can increase your risk of getting dementia later in life. This is especially true for those who suffer repeated head trauma or multiple injuries. People who are football players, boxers, or other athletes with contact sports may be at a higher risk. The part of the brain that’s injured determines if dementia will develop. Most commonly, it’s the frontal and temporal lobes that are affected.
Parkinson’s Disease is a condition that affects the brain and can result in dementia. It’s caused by a shortage of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps with neural communication. As the disease progresses, some people may develop a type of dementia known as Dementia with Lewy Bodies.
The genetic disorder, Huntington’s Disease, is caused by a mutation in the huntingtin gene. It’s responsible for the breakdown of nerve cells in the brain, resulting in a decline in mental functioning. As the disease worsens, some individuals may develop dementia.
This is a rare brain disorder caused by an infectious protein, known as a prion. It’s unfortunately fatal and symptoms may appear rapidly, causing a rapid mental decline. There isn’t a known cause of this disease, but it may be genetic.
The Stages of Dementia
Dementia is a progressive condition, meaning it worsens over time. There are five stages of it:
Stage One: No Impairment
At this stage, there are no signs of dementia. However, tests may be able to detect any changes that have already begun to occur in the brain.
Stage Two: Very Mild Decline
At this stage, there may be some mild cognitive impairment, but it’s not severe enough to interfere with normal daily life.
Stage Three: Mild Decline
During stage three, there may be some noticeable changes in the person’s memory and behavior. They may struggle to recall recent events or have difficulty with decision-making and planning.
Stage Four: Moderate Decline
During this stage, the person may experience confusion and disorientation. They may also have difficulty communicating, as well as remembering people and places. This can be a frightening time for them and their family.
Stage Five: Severe Decline
At the final stage of dementia, the person may experience severe confusion and difficulty with communication. Also, stage five is the time when most people with dementia can’t walk or take care of themselves. They’ll likely require around-the-clock care and assistance with basic daily activities.
Complications Associated With Dementia
Unfortunately, there are several complications that occur as a result of dementia. These may include the following:
Some individuals with dementia have a reduction in appetite or stop eating altogether. This can lead to malnutrition and dehydration, which is dangerous for their health. It may also be difficult for them to chew and swallow, causing them to have less of a desire to eat.
Due to the mental decline associated with dementia, some individuals may forget to use the restroom and end up wetting themselves, leading to embarrassing situations and medical attention.
Individuals with dementia may become agitated or aggressive due to their confusion. This can be exhibited in verbal or physical outbursts, making it challenging to give them the care they need.
Pneumonia is a serious complication that can arise from dementia. People with the condition often forget how to swallow, which can result in food, liquids, and saliva entering their lungs. This can lead to infections, like pneumonia.
Challenges With Daily Tasks
Dementia makes it hard for individuals to complete daily tasks, such as dressing themselves or bathing. This requires assistance from a family member or professional caregiver. At some point, people with dementia can no longer live alone and require constant care.
Due to disorientation, people with dementia may wander off and put themselves in dangerous situations. This is why it’s important to provide them with a safe and secure environment.
They’re also prone to falling and injuring themselves, so it’s important to ensure their living space is free of clutter and hazards.
Ways to Care for a Person With Dementia
Caring for a person with dementia is daunting, but there are ways to help. It’s vital to educate yourself on the condition, so you can understand what your loved one is going through. It’s also important to be patient and understanding, as well as provide emotional support. Furthermore, it’s a good idea to create a safe environment and routine for the person. This will help them feel secure.
But of course, caring for a person with dementia isn’t easy. Therefore, you should consider relocating them to a living community that can provide them with the support they need.
Facilities like Sunflower Communities offer memory care services tailored to meet the requirements of people with dementia. A trained professional knows how to assist seniors with all stages of dementia, which includes understanding how to calmly speak to them and exhibit the patience needed to properly care for them.
Let Us Care For Your Loved One
Have you reached a point where you feel like you can no longer care for your loved one with dementia? If so, Sunflower Communities is here for you. Our communities offer a variety of on-site services that’ll allow your loved ones to live comfortably. Our residents receive memory care, behavioral health services, primary care, and more.
If you have any questions for us, call 763-307-6906 or contact us on our website. We look forward to speaking with you soon.