Dementia is not a disease itself but a catch-all term that describes several brain diseases.
These different diseases are progressive and frequently chronic brain conditions that interfere with thinking, memory, and behavior.
Although there is currently no curable treatment, medications and therapies from professionals can slow the decline and help with symptoms.
The quality of care a patient receives and the stage of their disease will significantly dictate the quality of life. That’s why Our Promise at the Kensington Reston is to love and care for your family as we do our own.
To help you understand your loved one’s situation, we’ll explain the main types of dementia, how they’re each diagnosed, and how to adapt to your loved one’s changing needs.
The four main types of dementia
There are four main types of dementia, and each can have different causes and severities.
The general types of dementia include:
- Dementia with Lewy Bodies
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Frontotemporal dementia
- Vascular dementia
The caregiving and treatment of your loved ones will depend greatly on the form of dementia.
Even if there aren’t any current indications of dementia in a resident, it’s beneficial to have trained staff on-site who can recognize the early warning signs of onset dementia.
So that even if your loved one has not shown any signs of the condition, it still may be beneficial to consider an assisted living community.
How to diagnose the type of dementia in your loved one
It’s normal, as we age, to lose some nerve cells in parts of the brain.
Those with dementia, however, experience far more significant loss. Many nerve cells stop working or lose connections with other brain cells and die off.
The symptoms are often similar among different types of dementia.
Some people have multiple forms of dementia, and symptoms may vary from person to person. These characteristics can make an accurate diagnosis difficult at times.
Doctors might ask for a medical history, perform a physical exam, and order lab and neurological tests to help diagnose if dementia is present.
Let’s dive more into each type.
Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB)
Like dementia in general, DLB, commonly called “Lewy body dementia” is not a single disorder but rather a spectrum of closely related disorders.
For example, Parkinson’s disease dementia (PDD) shares many clinical, neurochemical, and morphological features with DLB. However, despite the clinical overlap, each diagnosis is based on a distinction using the time of onset of motor and cognitive symptoms—as early cognitive impairment in DLB, then later onset of motor symptoms in PDD.
In all cases of DLB, abnormal protein deposits called alpha-synuclein, or “Lewy bodies,” collect in the cortex and affect chemical messengers.
The symptoms of Lewy body dementia include:
- Cognitive Decline. An inability to concentrate, stay alert or pay attention. Thoughts become disorganized, and patients may express illogical ideas
- Movement Problems. Muscle rigidity, reduced facial expressions, and loss of coordination
- Sleep Disorders. Insomnia and excessive daytime sleepiness
- Visual Hallucinations. Hallucinations are also common
The typical age of diagnosis for Lewy body dementia is 50 years or older.
Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD)
Frontotemporal dementia occurs when abnormal amounts or forms of proteins (called tau and TDP-43) accumulate inside a person’s neurons in their frontal and temporal lobes.
Frontotemporal dementia symptoms include:
- Personality changes and emotional states. Patients might display an emotional ‘flatness’ or excessive emotions
- Individuals have difficulty planning and organizing
- Impulsive behaviors arise
- Movement problems such as shaky hands and problems with walking and balance
- Language problems like difficulty understanding or speaking
It’s important to remember that there are several different types of frontotemporal disorders and that symptoms can vary depending on the type. For frontotemporal dementia, the typical age of diagnosis is between 45 and 64.
Vascular dementia occurs when brain injury conditions such as blood clots disrupt the blood flow in the brain.
Dementia is often diagnosed if someone has an unidentified stroke or a mini-stroke.
These sorts of traumas can happen without a patient even realizing it. Symptoms correspond to the part of the brain where the stroke occurs.
- Forgetfulness of past or recent events
- Misplacing objects or items
- Trouble following directions, instructions or learning new information
- Delusions or hallucinations
- Incidents of poor judgment
The common age of diagnosis for vascular dementia is over 65.
Alzheimer’s disease is a common type of dementia that occurs with abnormal protein deposits from amyloid plaques and tau tangles within the brain.
The levels of Alzheimer’s disease range from mild to severe.
Mild or early symptoms include:
- Getting lost or wandering
- Repeating questions
- Problems recognizing friends and family members
- Impulsive behaviors
- An inability to communicate
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease is generally diagnosed in people in their mid-60s and above, but some cases appearing mid-30s to 60s
It is also possible to have mixed dementia, which is more than one type of disease at the same time.
If there is mixed dementia, it becomes more of a challenge to identify the condition—whether the symptoms indicate Huntington’s disease, Korsakoff syndrome with Wernicke’s encephalopathy, or Creutzfeldt-jakob disease, to name a few.
The risk factors to developing dementia
Many factors may contribute to dementia, and some factors—such as age and family history—can’t be changed.
But as many people discovered during the pandemic, there are things you can do to reduce unnecessary risks to your health.
For example, common causes of dementia can be lessened with improvements in diet and exercise, reducing alcohol use, stopping smoking, and addressing late-stage depression issues or any sleeping hindrances.
Adapting to a loved one’s changing needs
The Kensington Reston recognizes Alzheimer’s and dementia can affect individuals differently. We specialize in levels of memory care that emphasize independence and self-sufficiency as much as possible.
For example, we’ve recently partnered with Insight Memory Care to provide the Kensington Day Club program. This program is designed to help your loved ones with mild cognitive impairment or in the early stages of dementia.
Other emerging care options include Memory cafes for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia or brain disorders.
It’s a safe and comfortable place where loved ones and their caregivers can socialize, play games, listen to music, and do other appropriate activities.
Mutual support and information exchange between people who are going through similar challenges can be invaluable resources.
What about those who require advanced care?
High-acuity patients are those whose needs progress quickly and need frequent observation to ensure improvement and stability.
The Kensington Reston has a dedicated high-acuity program available for those guests with a deeper need for care.
We have dedicated and trained staff on-site 24 hours a day to tend to the needs of our residents, even as they increase. They won’t need to transfer anywhere else as more care is needed.
Skilled and passionate professionals make a difference
Another factor that can improve the quality of life for residents is the presence of skilled professionals in a memory care team.
Meaghan, for example, is one of our most dedicated staff members who will be graduating this year with a Masters in Healthcare Administration. She has also achieved several certifications including:
- Certified Dementia Practitioner
- Certified Alzheimer’s Disease Dementia Care Trainer
- Senior Fitness Specialist
- Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist
- Positive Approach to Care (PAC) Trainer and Consultant
She puts it best: “My passion for seniors continues to grow as I pass on my training to our care team. ” The Positive Approach to Care method is followed by team members across all of our communities, allowing us to provide the most comprehensive and compassionate care to those with memory loss.
The Kensington Reston Promise
We understand that a loved one’s dementia can be hard on the whole family and understanding the condition is only the first step in care.
The Kensington Reston’s Promise is to care for your family as much as you do.
Our music therapy program and life enrichment Pocket Programming can help make a difference with those suffering from dementia-related challenges.
Contact us today, and let’s discuss how our programs can help your loved one’s care and quality of life.