As people age, their memories become weaker, and they become more forgetful. This does not mean that they have dementia. Younger people can also forget things, and this worsens as they get older.
Another confusion is between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The latter is one type of dementia, of which there are over 400 possibilities. Apart from Alzheimer’s Disease, the most common forms of dementia are Dementia with Lewy Bodies, Frontotemporal Dementia, and Vascular Dementia. The causes and symptoms of each type of dementia differ to some extent.
Two-thirds (67%) of dementia cases fall under Alzheimer’s Disease. Scientists are still not sure what causes this condition, but the current thinking is that it is related to an increase in proteins in the brain that lowers the ability of brain cells to communicate with each other. Risk factors are heart disease, critical injury to the head and brain, hereditary, and age.
Alzheimer’s Disease goes through phases. In the early stage, the symptoms are depression, agitation, and memory lapses. The middle phase shows a worsening of memory problems and related behaviors like forgetting where the person lives. Mood swings become more pronounced. Sleep patterns are disrupted. The person develops aphasia and speech problems. Additionally, the person has hallucinations and develops delusions. In the late stage of the disease, memory problems become severe, with the sufferer no longer recognizing loved ones and other people. Difficulties with communication are intensified. Incontinence, dysphagia, and impaired mobility begin in this stage. Mood volatility and depression are exacerbated.
Sufferers who are cared for in a facility that offers memory care in St. Louis may have a slower decline in memory problems.
The prominent feature of vascular dementia is a substantial slowness of thought. It is caused by a loss of oxygen to the brain leading to cell damage. Mini strokes are mostly to blame. It affects 17% of those diagnosed with dementia and is the second most common form. Risk factors are diabetes, obesity, and hypertension.
The early stage is characterized by problems balancing and walking, mood swings with depression, and an inability to concentrate. As the disease progresses to the late stage, mobility and balance issues lead to frequent falls. Depression is accompanied by a drastic change in personality. The sufferer loses control of the bladder. Memory loss and aphasia increase.
Because it is a degenerative disease, sufferers end up needing full-time care.
Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD)
Other names for FTD are progressive aphasia and Pick’s disease. It affects the regions on the front and sides of the brain that are responsible for planning, recognition of objects and faces, emotions and behavior, and problem-solving. The biggest risk factor is genetics, with 12.5% of sufferers having a family member with the same disease. Excess protein causes brain cells to die.
The earliest and most obvious symptom is a change in behavior and personality with the person acting inconsiderately, impetuously, or inappropriately, and lacking motivation. Standards of hygiene decline. Aphasia, dysphagia, incontinence, and mobility problems occur in the later stage. Memory lapses occur across both stages and show a decline.
Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB)
DLB and Parkinson’s disease have some commonalities. Both are caused by excess protein build-up in the areas of the brain responsible for muscle movement, vision, and thinking, a shuffling walk, and decreased mobility. DLB also shows a marked loss of memory. Nerve cells in the brain die. Risk factors are REM sleep disorder and Parkinson’s disease. There is no genetic component.
Symptoms are scary or funny hallucinations, mobility issues, fainting, insomnia, and dysphagia. The sufferer moves between states of confusion and alertness.
As can be seen, it is difficult to tell one type of dementia from another. A doctor may order tests or wait for further symptoms to develop before making a diagnosis.