While it is true that dementia and Alzheimer’s disease share many of the same symptoms, it is important to note that the two are not different names for the same condition. Dementia is caused by damage to the brain cells. Because Alzheimer’s is a disease that destroys the brain, it is one of the most common forms of dementia. Here’s is a brief description of the 4 main forms of dementia (including Alzheimer’s):
Vascular Dementia is also known as “multi-infarct dementia” or “post-stroke dementia.” It is the second most common type of dementia. The main symptoms of this form of dementia include memory loss, impaired judgment, a decreased ability to plan, and loss of motivation. As its name suggests, the primary cause of vascular dementia is often bleeding within the brain from a stroke or multiple mini strokes (TIAs) that cause brain damage. While there is no cure, many times, those with this ailment are able to receive treatment that prevents further brain injury by resolving the underlying cause of the ailment. In fact, there are numerous medications and therapies used to help manage the symptoms.
Lewy Body Dementia is also known as “cortical Lewy body disease” or “diffuse Lewy body disease.” Sadly, as the third most common type of dementia, there is no known treatment. At this time most treatments only briefly alleviate symptoms which can be quite severe including hallucinations that often result in violent reactions making patients with this disease very difficult to care for. Lewy Body Dementia is caused by abnormal proteins that appear in nerve cells and impair functioning.
While fairly rare, Frontotemporal Dementia is still considered to be the fourth most common type of dementia. Frontotemporal dementia is marked more by behavioral and emotional changes than by cognitive impairment. In fact, memory is preserved in people with frontotemporal dementia. Main symptoms often include decreased inhibition (frequently leading to inappropriate behavior, apathy and loss of motivation, decreased empathy, repetitive or compulsive behaviors, and anxiety and depression. Frontotemporal dementia occurs when the frontal or temporal lobes of the brain are damaged or shrink. While Frontotemporal dementia cannot be cured or reversed, doctors will use medicines to treat uncomfortable or problematic symptoms.
50% to 70% of all dementia cases result in a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease which is caused when high levels of certain proteins inside and outside brain cells which make it difficult for brain cells to stay healthy and to communicate with each other. This leads to the loss of connections between nerve cells, and eventually to the death of nerve cells and loss of brain tissue. Those with Alzheimer’s often experience memory loss that gets progressively worse causing confusion, difficulty communicating, anxiety and paranoia. Currently, there are medications which can temporarily increase brain function and improve the spirits of the person with Alzheimer’s disease, but no treatment has proven to be effective. The U.S. government has made Alzheimer’s research a high priority and set the optimistic goal of finding a cure by 2025.
While we have noted specific forms of dementia just about any condition that causes damage to the brain or nerve cells can cause dementia. For example, people with Parkinson’s disease will often exhibit dementia in the later stages of their illness. Huntington’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease and alcoholism can all lead to irreversible cognitive impairment/dementia.
Since doctors can accurately diagnose Alzheimer’s or symptoms of one of the other forms of dementia in 90% of cases, it is important that you consult a doctor right away if you or a loved one are exhibiting any signs of the disease. As you can see from the details above, there are some medications and treatments that may help manage some of the symptoms, so it’s important to seek help as soon as possible.
The toll that families face when presented with a diagnosis of either Alzheimer’s disease or any other form of dementia is immeasurable; the emotional, physical, and financial demands these diseases pose require the assistance of an experienced, highly skilled expert in the field of Elder Law. We have made the process of requesting a complimentary consultation to discuss the planning needed to navigate the issues you will face as easy as possible. We can help.
Reference: ALZ.org https://www.alz.org/dementia/types-of-dementia.asp