Dementia:

Information and Resources

Dementias are neurodegenerative disorders that primarily affects older adults.  While the most common type is Alzheimer’s disease, there are many different types of dementia.  Memory can be affected, but also behavior and language can change. Job performance can be affected, and daily tasks of living or managing a household can also be affected. 

Types of Dementia

There are multiple types of dementia, including:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Lewy Body Dementia
  • Vascular Dementia
  • Frontotemporal Dementia

Consultation with a neurologist can help with determining the diagnosis and helping to manage the symptoms of the disease. 

Alzheimer’s Disease (AD)

This is the most type of dementia that is found in older persons. This is a neurological disorder that adversely impacts someone’s memory, language, and ability to perform daily tasks. 

AD starts slowly. Since it first affects the parts of the brain that controls thought, memory and language, people with AD have difficulty remembering recent events and the names of family and friends. 

A mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a related condition that causes more memory problems than normal for a given age cohort. Many people with MCI tend to develop AD. 

Over time, AD symptoms will get worse. Patients fail to recognize close family members and have problems speaking, reading or writing. These people may also forget how to take care of their hygiene needs. In the later stages of the disease, they may become anxious or aggressive and may wander from their homes. 

AD generally begins after age 60 and the risk increases as you age. Your risk is also higher if there is a family history of AD. Although there is no cure for AD, some medications may control the symptoms and stall the disease’s progression. An AD diagnosis eventually results in total care, which can be stressful for caregivers. 

Alzheimer’s Disease (AD)

This is the most type of dementia that is found in older persons. This is a neurological disorder that adversely impacts someone’s memory, language, and ability to perform daily tasks. 

AD starts slowly. Since it first affects the parts of the brain that controls thought, memory and language, people with AD have difficulty remembering recent events and the names of family and friends. 

A mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a related condition that causes more memory problems than normal for a given age cohort. Many people with MCI tend to develop AD. 

Over time, AD symptoms will get worse. Patients fail to recognize close family members and have problems speaking, reading or writing. These people may also forget how to take care of their hygiene needs. In the later stages of the disease, they may become anxious or aggressive and may wander from their homes. 

AD generally begins after age 60 and the risk increases as you age. Your risk is also higher if there is a family history of AD. Although there is no cure for AD, some medications may control the symptoms and stall the disease’s progression. An AD diagnosis eventually results in total care, which can be stressful for caregivers. 

Lewy Body Dementia (LBD)

LBD is a common form of dementia in older adults. It involves loss of functions that are used in daily life such as:

  • Memory
  • Language and speech
  • Visual perception (ability to make sense of what is seen)
  • Problem-solving
  • Ability to pay attention and focus
  • Ability to complete daily tasks

LBD Symptoms and Types

LBD is a progressive disease wherein the symptoms slowly worsen. They include:

  • Dementia, or a severe loss of mental functions that affects daily activities.
  • Changes in concentration, attention, alertness, and wakefulness. 
  • Visual hallucinations – seeing things that are not there.
  • Problems with posture and movement – slowed movements due to muscle stiffness (or Parkinsonian motor symptoms).
  • REM sleep behavior disorder – where a person acts out their dreams while sleeping. 
  • Behavioral and mood changes – including depression, anxiety and apathy. 

LBD symptoms worsen over time, and in the later stages, total care may be necessary. 

Dementia with Lewy Body and Parkinson’s disease dementia have much overlap in symptoms. The main difference is with the types of cognitive and physical disabilities. Dementia with Lewy Body looks similar to Alzheimer’s disease and then causes movement problems, hallucinations and sleep disorders. Parkinson’s disease dementia begins with slowed movement, muscle stiffness, tremors and a shuffling walk. The dementia sets in at a later date. 

Causes of LBD and Risk Factors

LBD occurs when an abnormal protein called alpha-synuclein builds up in areas of the brain that control memory, thinking and movement. It’s not clear where these deposits come from, but similar deposits are found in other neurodegenerative diseases (like Parkinson’s disease). 

The most important risk factor for LBD is age. Most persons develop LBD over age 50. If there’s a family history of LBD, then the risk of developing the condition is higher.

LBD Diagnosis and Treatment

There’s no single diagnostic test for LBD. A neurologist  will often conduct: 

  • A medical history and detailing current symptoms. Both patient and caregiver will need to speak with the physician.
  • Physical and neurological exams.
  • Blood and brain imaging tests to rule out similar disorders. 
  • Neuropsychological tests to assess memory and other cognitive functions.

It’s important to both isolate similar diseases and correctly identify the type of LBD. This will facilitate effective treatment. Unfortunately there is no cure for LBD, but treatments can manage the symptoms. Interventions may include:

  • Medication to alleviate some cognitive, movement, and psychiatric symptoms.
  • Physical therapy to help with movement problems.
  • Occupational therapy to find adaptations to conduct daily activities.
  • Speech therapy to assist with swallowing difficulties and problems speaking loudly and clearly.
  • Mental health counseling for patients with LBD and their families. This assists with emotional and behavior management and planning for the future.
  • Music or art therapy to reduce anxiety and improve wellbeing.
  • Support groups can be helpful for people with LBD and their caregivers.

Treating Dementia

Unfortunately there is no cure for dementia. However, some medications may be able to control some of the symptoms of some of these diseases. The rate of degeneration can’t be slowed in these neurodegenerative diseases. 

Neurodegenerative Diseases Outcomes

The outcomes of these diseases depend on the level of treatment and care that is received. It is possible to manage some symptoms over time, with goals of providing symptomatic treatment to the patient and support to the patient and caregivers to improve quality of life as much as possible. Unfortunately, these are conditions without a cure at this time. 

 

Neurodegenerative Diseases Outcomes

The outcomes of these diseases depend on the level of treatment and care that is received. It is possible to manage some symptoms over time, with goals of providing symptomatic treatment to the patient and support to the patient and caregivers to improve quality of life as much as possible. Unfortunately, these are conditions without a cure at this time. 

 

Accessing Healthcare

for Dementia

If you or a loved one exhibits one or a few of these symptoms, then please contact us for an initial consultation. Our experts at Family Neurology can conduct the required diagnostic tests. A dementia diagnosis can be frightening, but we are here to partner with you to manage your condition. Let’s work together to ameliorate your symptoms and maintain your quality of life.

Dementia Resources

Organizations

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)

This institute conducts research on brain diseases and neurological disorders. The NINDS also funds similar research projects in several medical institutes across America. 

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

This conglomeration of several institutes is responsible for conducting and funding biomedical and public health research in the USA.

Alzheimer’s Association

This association provides information on Alzheimer’s disease, its symptoms, diagnosis, stages, treatment, and care. It also provides some support resources. 

Lewy Body Dementia Association (LBDA)

This nonprofit organization is dedicated to raising awareness of LBD. It also supports people with LBD, their families and caregivers. Finally, LBDA also promotes scientific research.

 

Dementia Resources

Organizations

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)

This institute conducts research on brain diseases and neurological disorders. The NINDS also funds similar research projects in several medical institutes across America. 

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

This conglomeration of several institutes is responsible for conducting and funding biomedical and public health research in the USA.

Alzheimer’s Association

This association provides information on Alzheimer’s disease, its symptoms, diagnosis, stages, treatment, and care. It also provides some support resources. 

Lewy Body Dementia Association (LBDA)

This nonprofit organization is dedicated to raising awareness of LBD. It also supports people with LBD, their families and caregivers. Finally, LBDA also promotes scientific research.

 

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