During my years of lecturing, one of the facts that I always include in my presentations is that Alzheimer's is dementia but dementia is not always Alzheimer's. Although Alzheimer's disease makes up anywhere from 60 to 80% of all dementia, thanks to the help from The Alzheimer's Association 2020 Facts and Figures Report, today we're going to explore some of those other forms of dementia.
Dementia is used as a term to for a particular group of symptoms. Typical are difficulties with memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking skills that have an impact on the individual's ability to perform everyday activities. Let's look at some other forms of dementia:
Alzheimer's: Characterized by difficulty remembering conversations, names or events. Apathy and depression are also early symptoms while later symptoms include communication issues, disorientation, confusion, bad judgment and eventually difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking.
Cerebrovascular Disease: A more familiar term to describe this form of dementia is vascular dementia. You'll notice impaired judgment or ability to make decisions as well as difficulty with memory. In addition, vascular dementia can cause difficulty with motor functions, create a slow gait and poor balance.
Lewey Body Disease: People with dementia with Lewey bodies (DLB) have some symptoms of Alzheimer's but are more likely to experience sleep disturbances, visual hallucinations and visuospacial impairment. Memory loss my not be present in the early stages but will come later as other causes of dementia become present.
Fronto-Temporal Lobar Degeneration: Typical symptoms with FTLD are changes in personality and behavior, difficulty with communicating and understanding but no real memory challenges in the early stages. About 60% of those with FTLD are ages 45-60. Over the age of 65 they present with symptoms more like Alzheimer's disease. It is believed that FTLD is the most common form of dementia in people under 60.
Parkinson's Disease: Characterized by slowness in movement, rigidity, tremors and changes in gait. Cognitive challenges can develop just before movement symptoms or later in the disease.
Hippocampal Sclerosis (HS): HS is the hardening of the tissue in the hippocampus of the brain. The hippocampus plays a vital role in forming memories. The most significant symptom of HS is memory loss, and many are misdiagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.
Mixed Pathologies: Mixed dementia is more common than previously believed. More than 50% of those with dementia studied at Alzheimer's Disease Centers were identified to have more than one cause of dementia. The likelihood of having mixed dementia increases with age and is highest in people 85 years and older.
There are many other causes of dementia, from alcohol abuse to multiple concussions (CTE). The important thing for everyone to remember is that it is never a good idea to play doctor and be your own diagnostician. At the first signs of any of these symptoms, with you or your loved one, make an appointment with a specialist. Even if you go so far as to take or give one of the online cognitive exams that are available, don't try to interpret the results. Leave that to the pros. When you do visit them, bring a list of the signs or behaviors that have caused you concern. That will go a long way to helping them determine what the issues may be and how best to address them.
If you'd like to learn more, I suggest you go to the Alzheimer's Association website, ALZ.org. It contains incredibly valuable information. Clinical insights, research projects, brain tours, chat rooms , support group information and more. You will also have the opportunity to read and/or download my source for much of the information in this article in their “2020 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures” report. It's over 90 pages of information and insights that any and all caregivers will find valuable.
If you're a caregiver, you'll find there is no such thing as having too much information.
Questions? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Join the Journey.