There are several common types of dementia that cause a deterioration in cognitive abilities. It can cause changes in behavior and personality. Although Alzheimer’s is the most common, there are at least 50 other types of dementia. It is a condition that affects mainly the elderly. The costs to care for people with dementia are over 600 billion dollars a year, and the number is expected to skyrocket even further.
Certain types of dementia have an abnormal accumulation of proteins in the brain. Often it is found in the neurons. In Alzheimer’s, beta amyloid is the protein that forms plaques in the brain. The neurons can become tangled, which can detrimentally affect the neurons’ ability to communicate with each other. Memory loss, confusion and the inability to do familiar tasks are signs of Alzheimer’s disease.
Vascular dementia is another common dementia that is caused from strokes or heart problems. When the brain suffers from many small strokes or a large one, brain damage can occur, which can result in dementia.
Lewy body dementia is a progressive condition that shares traits with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. It can cause hallucinations and lapses in attention. Some researchers believe that Lewy bodies can be a form of Alzheimer’s. Others think the two are separate conditions that can be found together.
Huntington’s disease is a genetic disorder that affects the brain and spinal region. It starts with personality changes and can develop into dementia and psychotic episodes. If you think you are a carrier of the gene, it is a good idea to get genetic counseling before you have children.
Pick’s disease affects 5% of people with dementia. It mainly afflicts older women after the age of 40. There is a buildup of protein in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. The difference between Alzheimer’s and Pick’s is that it is not usually memory loss that occurs first. You will see more changes in behavior and in mood. A person will become more impulsive, may show signs of exhibitionism, urinary incontinence and may become obsessive.
These are some examples of types of dementia that cannot be cured. Early diagnosis is important because some individuals will benefit from anti-dementia drugs that can delay memory problems. Studies have shown that if you keep your mind engaged, it can also delay the onset of dementia. Learning a language, playing a musical instrument, working crossword puzzles and just challenging the mind can keep the brain more active and sharp.
Dementia caused by vitamin deficiencies, hormone deficiencies and drug and alcoholic addiction are examples of types of dementia that can be treated and reversed in some cases. It is important to know what type of dementia you have so that you can determine the proper course of treatment.
The Nurses at Partners in Healthcare are available to talk with you about your in-home care needs including how to reduce caregiver stress while providing better, affordable care. We are a senior care agency providing elder home care serves in the Orlando area, 407-788-9393.
Hank Charpentier, BSB, MBA, MA, Certified Senior Adviser