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Dementia umbrella terms

Dementia umbrella terms
Date published: 14 September 2022 Author: Izzi Parsonage Categories:

Did you know there are more than 100 forms of dementia? And almost all of them affect the brain, body and behaviour in different ways.

Currently the seventh leading cause of death in the US, dementia is one of the major causes of disability and dependency for adults worldwide. But it is not just those with the disease who are impacted. A diagnosis of dementia puts a huge emotional toll and practical impact on the daily lives of families and carers. And there is a huge economic impact in terms of healthcare costs too.

What are the most common types of dementia?

1. Alzheimer’s

The WHO reported in 2021 that Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and may contribute to as many as 60-70% of cases. It is thought that Alzheimer’s is caused by a combination of factors including genetics, age, environment and lifestyle choices. But it’s not known how these work together to cause the symptoms we see.

Alzheimer’s is progressive and its effects on the brain are irreversible. Common symptoms early on can include short-term memory loss, progressing on to more serious cognitive decline. This might include a reduction in thinking abilities and reasoning skills, and eventually impact motor skills, speech and recognition.

Regular physical activity, a healthy diet and mental stimulation can reduce the risk of developing this type of dementia. However, once the symptoms of Alzheimer’s have appeared it’s impossible to halt completely.

Did you know… September is #AlzheimersAwarenessMonth?

2. Vascular dementia

While vascular dementia causes similar symptoms to Alzheimer’s, there is actually something very different going on in the brain. This type of dementia is caused by blockages in the blood vessels, leading to reduced blood flow. When the brain is deprived of the oxygen and nutrients it needs, brain damage results. Vascular dementia commonly occurs after a stroke, but there is also a link with high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes.

It is not possible to reverse the impact of this type of vascular damage on the brain, however a ‘heart-friendly’ diet, one that is low in fat and cholesterol, can certainly help. As can plenty of physical activity. In some cases, these types of lifestyle changes have been found to not only slow but also halt progress of this type of dementia entirely.

3. Dementia with Lewy Bodies (including Parkinson’s Dementia)

Dementia with Lewy Bodies is not one of the most well-known forms of dementia, but it is certainly one of the most common and is often associated with Parkinson’s Disease – a much more widely discussed condition. Lewy Bodies are abnormal proteins that build up in the areas of the brain involved in thinking and motor control. These abnormal deposits can have an impact on mood and behaviour and sometimes, but not always, memory.

Your risk of developing Lewy Body Dementia increases with age and symptoms can vary between patients. Some people with this form of dementia will notice cognitive impairment before their behaviour changes and they develop the characteristic shakiness we associate with Parkinson’s disease. Others find these uncontrollable movements happen before any deterioration of memory.

Treating this kind of dementia can be very complicated as it presents so differently in different people. While drugs can be used to manage the various symptoms, people with Lewy Bodies can often struggle with the side effects of drugs, meaning non-drug forms of therapy are popular in these cases.

4. Frontotemporal dementia (including Pick’s disease)

As is the case with many types of dementia, the impact of Frontotemporal dementia is specifically on the brain’s frontal lobe, causing degeneration in that area.

FTD, as it’s known, can be difficult to diagnose thanks to the varying symptoms that occur person to person. Most notably these are behavioural changes that can vary from a complete lack of energy to a lack of any inhibition. People with FTD may also lose the ability to speak properly, or at least to articulate words. Unlike with other forms of dementia, people usually retain their comprehension, although problem solving can become difficult.

With FTD there is a strong genetic link, with family history and a gene mutation on chromosome 17 being the biggest indicators that dementia may develop. Lifestyle choices will not increase your risk of dementia in this case.

There is no known cure and treatments only tend to manage inappropriate behaviours. People with FTD typically live for around seven years after the onset of symptoms.

Three things we think you should know about dementia

1 – Dementia is not a natural part of normal ageing

In most cases, there are lifestyle changes that you can make to reduce your risk of developing the disease.

2 – Dementia doesn’t only affect memory

While we often think of dementia as synonymous with loss of memory, this is entirely not the case. Symptoms can vary between people and, depending on the part of the brain that is affected, may not impact memory at all.

3 – You can still live a full life with dementia

A dementia diagnosis is not a death sentence. Yes it’s important to make plans and understand how your condition is likely to progress, but with the proper care and support there is no reason you can’t remain in your home, continue your favourite hobbies and enjoy a high quality of life for as long as you are able.

What are we, as a society, doing to help?

With the World Health Organisation’s prediction that 139m people will be living with dementia by 2050, governments around the world have been forced to sit up and take notice.

In August this year, the UK Prime Minister announced the Dame Barbara Windsor Dementia Mission, promising £160m per year to dementia research and launching a national mission to find better treatments and even a cure for dementia.

What can we do on a more personal level?

We urge you to head online and check out the Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends Training. Designed to “create a climate of kindness and understanding, so that everyone affected by dementia feels part of, not apart from, society”, the brief training helps us to better understand the symptoms of dementia and to help people with dementia and Alzheimer’s live independently in their own communities.

It is a great way to do something positive, learn a little more about the impact of dementia and make a difference to those around you.

In fact, here at Promedica24, we think Dementia Friends is such a great thing to do that we encourage all of our team to complete their training and wear their forget-me-not pin badge with pride.

Find out more about out Alzheimer’s care and dementia services.

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