When a loved one begins to experience signs of memory loss, the most common type of dementia usually comes to mind first: Alzheimer’s disease.
However, there are several types of dementia and many reasons a loved one could be experiencing memory loss.
Learn what causes memory loss, the many types of dementia, and the top five early signs of dementia to watch for.
What Causes Memory Loss?
Dementia is not an illness, but a term that covers a variety of symptoms caused by changes in the brain. These symptoms include memory loss, confusion, and even movement issues.
If you notice a loved one experiencing memory loss, and this is their only symptom, it’s important to take them to the doctor for evaluation. It could be something as simple as a medication adjustment or vitamin deficiency that can be corrected.
However, it could also be an early sign of dementia. While occasionally forgetting where we placed our keys or having trouble finding the right word is human, if you notice a loved one’s consistent forgetfulness or increasing confusion, it could be more.
What Causes These ‘Brain Changes’?
Depending on the type of dementia, the changes in the brain causing dementia symptoms vary.
Alzheimer’s, for example, is caused by abnormal proteins in the brain that damage cells and disrupt cell communication.
Lewy body dementia is also caused by abnormal proteins, but the types and location of these proteins in the brain can change the symptoms a person may experience.
Top Five Early Signs of Dementia
While symptoms will vary depending on the person and the cause of their dementia, watch for these five early symptoms in a loved one:
- Memory problems
- Trouble thinking clearly or making decisions
- Trouble communicating or finding words
- Difficulty with coordination and motor skills
- Personality or behavior changes
Since some causes of dementia, such as medication side effects, can be resolved, most types are progressive and incurable.
As a result, it’s important to get your loved one to the doctor as soon as possible to determine the cause and receive treatment.
Even if your loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or Lewy body dementia, treatments are available to potentially preserve quality of life for as long as possible.
What Are the Types of Dementia?
There are several types of dementia, with various causes.
Here are seven common types of dementia, what causes them, and how a physician will work to determine the cause.
Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia, covering about 60% to 80% percent of those with dementia.
Those with Alzheimer’s have plaques and tangles of abnormal proteins in their brains. These clumps damage healthy brain cells.
Lewy Body Dementia
Lewy body dementia (LBD) is also caused by abnormal proteins in the brain called Lewy bodies. These clumps are also found in those with Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s.
In addition to other signs of dementia, those with LBD have visual hallucinations, slow movement, and tremors.
Parkinson’s Disease Dementia
Those with Parkinson’s disease may develop Parkinson’s disease dementia as the disease progresses. This type of dementia is very similar to LBD, due to the presence of Lewy bodies in the brain.
Vascular dementia is caused by blood vessel damage in the vessels that supply to the brain. These issues can lead to strokes or damage to brain fibers.
Those with vascular dementia may display slow thinking and loss of focus more often than memory loss.
Mixed dementia has several causes. This may be a combination of Alzheimer’s disease, LBD, and vascular dementia, or some other combination.
This type of dementia is caused by the breakdown of nerve cells and connectors in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain.
Since these areas are associated with personality and language, your loved one may experience changes in behavior, thinking, language, and judgment.
Huntington’s disease is caused by a genetic defect inherited from family. At around age 30 or 40, symptoms of cell damage in the brain and spinal cord begin to appear.
How Will a Doctor Diagnose My Loved One?
If you notice a loved one showing symptoms of dementia, their doctor will perform a variety of tests to determine the cause.
First, the doctor will review your loved one’s medical history and symptoms, and perform a physical exam. They also will likely ask family members to describe symptoms as well.
Blood tests can determine vitamin deficiencies or thyroid disease, so this is likely to be the next step.
If no nutritional issues or other disease is found, their doctor will run more tests, including:
- Cognitive and neurological tests to measure thinking skills, memory, reasoning, and language
- Brain scans, including CT, MRI, or PET scans to check for stroke, bleeding, tumors, patterns of brain activity, and abnormal protein deposits
- Psychiatric evaluation to determine whether a mental health condition is causing symptoms
Once their doctor determines the cause, they can recommend treatments.
While there’s no cure for progressive forms of dementia, there are certain medications, supplements, therapies, exercises, and brain-healthy foods that can help manage symptoms and maintain quality of life.
How a Loving Memory Care Community Supports Loved Ones
After your loved one is diagnosed, you and your family should craft a care plan. If you have the resources to serve as a caregiver, you may choose to do that for as long as possible.
However, there are many physical, emotional, and financial considerations for caregivers. Part of your care plan may include moving your loved one to an assisted living community with memory care.
Our Promise is to love and care for your family as we do our own. With two memory care neighborhoods tailored to your loved one’s unique needs, plus a wide range of activities and services, your loved one is sure to find a home with us.Call our team today to ask questions about our community and discover how we can provide the best care to your loved one with dementia.