There are “Other” Dementias, in Addition to Alzheimer’s

There are different causes and treatments for various types of dementia

Posted in , Feb 14, 2019

There are “Other” Dementias, in Addition to Alzheimer’s

This article is based on information provided by Home Instead Senior Care.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for about 60 percent of all cases. So it makes sense that it receives the most attention. We are generally familiar with the classic symptoms of Alzheimer’s, and how the disease impacts memory, language, thinking and judgment. 

But other forms of dementia affect hundreds of thousands, and possibly millions of people throughout the world. In fact, the US Alzheimer’s Association was originally called the Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorder Association. 

Knowing what type of dementia your loved one has, can help you as a caregiver understand their behaviors and learn more about to expect. 

Here are some of the “other” dementias.

Vascular dementia develops when impaired blood flow to parts of the brain deprives cells of oxygen. In one form, a series of very small strokes or “infarcts” block small blood vessels. Individually, these little strokes do not cause major symptoms, but over time their combined effect becomes noticeable, which is one reason why this type of dementia was formerly called “multi-infarct dementia.”

Most of the “memory medications” used to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease (the cholinesterase inhibitors like Aricept) have also been shown to help individuals with vascular dementia. Lifestyle changes that support good heart health and reduce stroke risk may also be helpful.

Mixed dementia is a common condition in which Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia occur simultaneously. The treatment is similar to vascular dementia.

Lewy Body dementia is characterized by abnormal deposits of a protein called “Lewy bodies,” after the scientist who first described them.

Memory problems, poor judgment, and confusion similar to Alzheimer’s are among the symptoms. What distinguishes it from Alzheimer’s is that persons with Lewy Body may have excessive daytime drowsiness, profound visual hallucinations, movement symptoms and a lack of facial expression.

The traditional dementia medications may be helpful; however, persons with Lewy Body dementia are often quite sensitive to psychotropic medications.

Parkinson’s disease can sometimes be accompanied by dementia. In fact, dementia occurs in 15-30 percent of people with Parkinson’s disease, usually appearing in the later stages of this chronic brain and nervous system disorder. Classic symptoms of Parkinson’s include tremors and shakiness, stiffness, difficulty walking and controlling muscles, lack of facial expression and impaired speech.

Parkinson’s medications help with physical manifestations of the disease, but may have the side effect of added confusion.

Frontotemporal dementia (often called “frontal-lobe dementia”) is a rare disorder that affects the front (frontal lobes) and the sides (temporal lobes) of the brain. Symptoms include a more rapid onset of symptoms than Alzheimer’s disease, as well as changes in personality, judgment, planning and social functioning. Individuals may make rude or off-color remarks to family or strangers. They may make unwise decisions about finances or personal matters. This is the only dementia that impacts more men than women.The peak age is 55-65.

There are no current treatments specifically for frontal-lobe dementia. The traditional memory medications, cholinesterase inhibitors such as Aricept, may make this form of dementia worse and are usually not recommended. Antidepressants may be helpful.

The correct diagnosis makes for better care

It is important to find out what  form of dementia your loved one has, as it will allow you as a caregiver to learn more about the medical causes behind the person’s behaviors. So it is best to begin with a complete exam by a physician. With a thorough exam, a doctor can usually identify the specific dementia involved. Knowledge leads to understanding, and understanding will make it easier for you to deal with the circumstances. For example, if your family member has frontal-lobe dementia and says hurtful things, you may be more able  to shrug the words off. If you are caring for someone with Lewy Body dementia who talks to “little people” you can’t see, you will learn that this is not unusual and will be less prone to overreact. 

Keeping up with the latest trends in dementia and dementia care is a priority for the Home Instead Senior Care®network, according to co-founder Lori Hogan. “Knowing about these other dementias will help our wonderful CAREgiversSM come into the home with wisdom and confidence.”

Find help and information by going to your Facebook feed and liking our Remember for Alzheimer’s Facebook page. You will see that you’re not alone. Great moral support and resources are available.

Your local Home Instead Senior Care office can direct you to a CAREGiver near you.

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