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Dementia: How Does This Disease Work?

by Shannon, December 03, 2018

As a leading home care provider, Care Indeed can offer trained staff to help your loved ones diagnosed with dementia. However, as a person affected by the disease or a family member offering support, the more you know about this condition, the better you are able to cope.

The Institute on Aging defines dementia as “the loss of cognitive functioning—thinking, remembering, and reasoning—and behavioral abilities to such an extent that it interferes with a person's daily life and activities.” To be specific, individuals with dementia struggle with self-management, problem solving, focus and memory. In addition, visual perception and language skills may also be affected.

Some people suffering from dementia have difficulty controlling their emotions, so you may notice that personalities change at different times of the day, especially depending on the severity of the disease.

Types of Dementia

Dementia develops in many forms, but one constant is that it affects three major areas of the brain: decision making, language skills and memory.

Knowing the type of dementia you or a loved one is affected by, can help you to understand some of the changes that take place.

The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, between 60 and 80 percent of dementia cases are caused by Alzheimer’s disease. Some of the most common early signs of this type of dementia include forgetting recent events and names. As this disease continues to progress, patients often experience more confusion and mood changes. It can also lead to trouble with walking and speaking.

Another form of dementia is vascular dementia. This condition is often related to a stroke or atherosclerotic disease and is caused by a lack of blood flow to the brain. Vascular dementia often features a slow onset or a sudden onset and early signs include disorientation and confusion. As the disease progresses, individuals have difficulty concentrating for longer periods of time and even completing simple, daily tasks.

Frontotemporal dementia is often a diagnosis for several variations of the disease. The common factor is that the disease affects the side and front part of the brain. This leads to difficulty with behavior and language control. People as young as 45 are susceptible to this form of dementia that causes a loss of motivation and inhibitions, which can lead to compulsive behavior. Your speech may also be affected, as well as memory function when it comes to understanding the meaning of common words.

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is one of the least common forms of dementia, affecting only 1 in 1 million individuals each year, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. The disease is fatal and progresses quickly. The most common symptoms include confusion, a loss of memory, agitation, twitching and muscle stiffness.

It is also possible to have mixed dementia, which is a combination of more than one type of the disease. It is, in fact, very common to possess a combination of both Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia, according to the Jersey Alzheimer’s Association. The symptoms often vary, though, and may include disorientation and memory loss, as well as mood changes, difficulty speaking and trouble with walking.

The Stages of Dementia

Dementia develops in three primary stages. What you’ll notice is that each individual is affected in a different way, though. Trying to predict the length of each stage is not necessarily possible, though, because each patient’s brain is affected differently.

Mild Dementia: As the earliest stage of dementia, mild dementia allows you to still function independently. You may find that you are still able to maintain a social life and even drive. The symptoms during this stage are often attributed to the process of aging since the symptoms are similar. Mild dementia can cause difficulty with remembering certain words or slight lapses in memory. You may also struggle with concentrating on tasks, planning and organizing. On average, this stage can last anywhere from two to four years, according to Dementia Care Central.

Moderate Dementia: This stage of dementia is commonly known as the longest stage. During moderate dementia you may have difficulty performing daily tasks or expressing your thoughts. Memory lapses may also become more severe and you may not be able to remember simple elements of life, such as personal history, locations and even your address. The most evident symptom involves communication. With mood and behavior changes that include paranoia, depression, anger and frustration, people with moderate dementia may need additional care and supervision. On average, this stage lasts anywhere between two and 10 years.

Severe Dementia: Also known as advanced dementia, the severe stage of this disease is the most problematic for patients. Significant issues with communication occur, and people with severe dementia may only be able to use expressions or simple words. Memory worsens and remembering recent events, family members and personal history is extremely difficult. In some cases, people with severe dementia recall long-term memories from their childhood or earlier life versus events that happened just a few minutes ago. Toward the end of this severe stage of the disease, many people are bedridden and forget how to eat. This stage commonly lasts one to three years, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Finding the Support and Care You Need

While most people believe that dementia affects people over 65, the reality is that early onset can affect individuals as young as 40. The symptoms vary and are often much more evident to family members versus individuals affected by the disease.

This is why support and care are essential at the onset of dementia. It is important to learn as much about the symptoms and care needed to help support your loved ones. Tap into resources from local and national organizations to boost your knowledge of how the disease affects everyone involved and to also identify dementia games and dementia activities to stimulate the memory. In addition, lean on caregivers, such as the qualified staff from Care Indeed, to help with daily living.

Life with any type of dementia is challenging and learning how to accept the challenge is the first step in living life. While you may struggle with grief and loss when coping with the symptoms as a patient, caregiver or family member, the support you need is only a click away.

Are you helping a loved one cope with dementia? You can turn to us for support. 

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