Although Alzheimer’s disease often gets a lot of attention, not everyone is aware that it’s actually just one of many types of dementia that people living in Costa Mesa and elsewhere can suffer from and sometimes require in-home care.
True, there are a lot of reasons why Alzheimer’s is the most recognized: that particular condition represents between 60 and 80 percent of all diagnosed cases of dementia and is considered the most common. Although research and fund-raising are continuing into possible causes and possible ways to slow down its advances, Alzheimer’s disease is still considered irreversible and ultimately fatal.
Over the years, the staff at Accredited Home Care has worked with a wide variety of clients with Alzheimer’s disease along with others who are suffering from other dementias. In some cases, clients may actually be experiencing multiple dementias at once.
Medically, this is often quite difficult to determine which is which, since some dementias have similar and overlapping mental or physical changes and challenges that can accompany them, including memory problems. Multiple types of dementia are sometimes called “mixed dementia”
But there also could be some different behaviors or symptoms that can be observed with the different dementias or even physiological differences that can be detected in other ways, including blood tests.
In these situations, it can often be useful to try to separate dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease from the other dementias that may be taking place. Because some dementias can be cured or reversed, it could be encouraging to try and search for ways to help someone get rid of one or more of theirs.
A reversal or improvement of some areas of dementia may be as simple as adding or changing certain medications, or sometimes trying a different diet or altering some parts of one’s environment.
Types of dementia
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are about a dozen types of dementias that are determined to be significant enough to cause disruptions in people’s health, behaviors or overall quality of life.
Some are more recognizable than others, such as Down’s syndrome or Parkinson’s disease. Some are terms for very specific functions, such as Korsakoff Syndrome, and some are very general, such as vascular dementia or mixed dementia.
The causes of each can vary, as well as the treatment methods.
• Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus, which takes place when cerebrospinal fluid builds up in the brain and can cause problems walking, thinking and loss of bladder control.
• Posterior Cortical Atrophy, which is when the outer layer of the brain beings to deteriorate, especially in the area at the back of the skull.
• Lewy Body Dementia, which is caused by abnormal microdeposits that damage brain cells.
• Vascular dementia. When blood vessels in the brain are damaged or tissue injured, the brain could receive less blood, less oxygen, and other important nutrients.
• Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. This condition is caused by protein prions through the body beginning to grow in abnormal shapes for some reason, which can permanently damage the brain. It also is a faster-moving form of dementia and is believed to be connected to transplantations or eating meat with these conditions.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, followed by vascular dementia and Lewy body dementia.
The National Institute on Aging said Alzheimer’s, frontotemporal disorders and Lewy body dementia are the three that are considered irreversible. Mixed dementia and vascular dementia are considered progressive.
But beyond these, many can be easily correctable with various courses of treatment or ceasing certain activities. For instance, Korsakoff Syndrome is believed to be connected to chronic alcohol usage, so reducing alcohol intake can help.
Others are connected to vitamin or mineral deficiencies, medications or even physical trauma, such as brain damage from a fall or accident. Other problems in the body may cause some of these mental conditions such as malfunctioning kidneys or liver which may introduce more toxins into the body.
If you or a loved one are beginning to show some of the common signs of dementia, such as memory problems, a lack of coordination or unusual physical conditions, the first step should be to go see a primary provider.
This can include confusion, paranoia, problems communicating, anxiety and general memory loss.
In some cases, if a behavior doesn’t fit a pattern, it could mean there are other dementias at work. For instance, frontotemporal dementia can include fewer inhibitions, less empathy, and more compulsive behaviors, none of which are common in traditional Alzheimer’s, or at least not until the final stages.
He or she will be interested in hearing about the symptoms, which will help them put together a diagnosis and then figure out if anything can be done to treat it, or if a referral needs to be made to another provider who specializes in dementia or senior health.
Trying to determine if mixed dementia behaviors are part of Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia may require some degree of research and experimentation.
For instance, a provider may suggest or prescribe certain vitamins or medication as an option. If some or all of the symptoms of a particular condition disappear after treatment, that could have been the problem.
Or if problems don’t go away or get worse, the provider can narrow it down to one of the more serious and progressive dementias.
Overall, seeking the advice of a trusted provider is vital early on in someone’s period of dementia.