When people hear about dementia, it’s easy to think only of Alzheimer’s disease, the progressive disease where proteins in the brain slowly wither and die, causing permanent physical and mental changes and ultimately death.
For some people, Alzheimer’s disease moves quickly, and they can go from thinking clearly to losing all their faculties within a few months. For others, it may take years to fully progress from forgetting a few facts to the point where hospice care is needed, and the brain and body become non-responsive.
The team at Accredited Home Care works with many clients with different stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Most still have enough abilities to live independently, although assistance is needed from family members or home health nurses, aides, LVNs, and other caregivers.
Interestingly, our team also works with clients who are dealing with some types of dementia but don’t have Alzheimer’s disease.
Unless you’ve had a family member or loved one deal with dementia, or have learned about it in nursing or medical programs, you may not realize that there are several types beyond Alzheimer’s disease. Depending on how technical you want to be, there are between four and 12 types.
There’s also some other good news related to this medical condition. Some forms of dementia, or at least the symptoms that they can display, are treatable and can be reversed. This can be comforting to loved ones who may be fearing a permanent diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Instead, they may discover that changing medication or other therapies may be able to provide some improvement or relief.
The important thing is to consult a health care provider regularly, especially someone familiar with some of the more common dementias. Certainly, more seniors do have some of these conditions, but they aren’t necessarily a routine part of the aging process.
A provider can also look at some of the symptoms someone is having and decide whether they can be addressed separately or may all be part of a certain type of dementia care plan, such as depression, anxiety, anger, or coordination problems.
Summertime is also a good opportunity for people to do their own research and learn more about any of these diseases.
June was Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month when you can show your support by wearing purple or getting involved with a local chapter. But you continue your efforts all year round.
Types of dementia
According to Healthline, some of the more common forms of dementia apart from Alzheimer’s disease include:
- Lewy Body Dementia. This dementia happens due to excess protein deposits in the brain’s nerve cells, which interrupt the flow of activity. This can disrupt communication through the body and is known to cause disorientation and memory loss. People who have this condition may experience hallucinations and irregular sleep cycles. For instance, because the chemical background of their brain has changed, they may not be able to sleep at night or feel like they’re ready for bed during the day. Also common is for people to not recognize their surroundings and feel lost. There is also some possible physical change such as general weakness and difficulty walking.
- Parkinson’s disease. Although it’s thought of as a neurological disease, it fits the definition of dementia. Besides causing noticeable tics or physical problems, people with Parkinson’s disease have difficulty concentrating. They may experience hallucinations and have problems with judgment. They may have a difficult time understanding or processing basic information and may forget facts and procedures they learned in the past. Dealing with the symptoms may cause irritation as well.
- Vascular dementia. This is considered the second most common type of dementia. It’s caused when diseased blood vessels are not able to fully transport blood to the brain. The reduced supply can cause problems throughout the whole body, including fatigue and lack of coordination. It also can increase the possibility of other brain damage especially if the vessels leak and blood spills into the brain. Plus, if an inadequate amount of blood reaches cells, the cells can starve and die, causing other cognition problems.
- Frontotemporal dementia. If the lobes in the front of the brain area are damaged by trauma or even the nerve cells in these lobes, it can cause a breakdown in communication in the brain and body. The nerve cells carry information back and forth through the brain. But if they’re only partly working or declining, it could limit responses to mental activity and even cause brain tissue in the temporal or frontal lobes to shrink in size. People who have experienced this type of dementia sometimes describe dramatic changes in personality and behavior. Even if memories aren’t affected, damage to these areas can affect how we perceive the world around us. These lobes often regulate our emotions, our problem-solving abilities, and the meanings of words and concepts.
- Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. This brain disorder is caused by a deficiency of Vitamin B-1 that causes bleeding in the brain and leads to vision problems and muscle coordination disorders. This is often followed by problems processing information, gaining new skills, or remembering past information.