Types of Dementia

Worldwide, nearly 4.4 million people have dementia, making it one of the most common health issues among adults 65 and older. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. At Sunrise, we provide detailed memory care resources with the goal of fostering a better understanding of memory loss and the care options that are available.

There are many types of dementia, each with its own definition, symptoms, and treatment options. Some types of dementia include:

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s Disease is the most widely known form of dementia, as it accounts for roughly 60-80 percent of all dementia diagnoses. Alzheimer’s affects the brain with abnormalities, including plaque deposits and twisted strands of proteins. It causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and worsen over time.

Common early symptoms of Alzheimer’s include:

View all Top 10 Alzheimer’s Warning Signs.

Vascular Dementia

Vascular dementia, also known as post-stroke or multi-infarct, accounts for roughly 10 percent of all dementia diagnoses. Vascular dementia is a decline in thinking skills caused by conditions that block or reduce blood flow to the brain--depriving brain cells of vital oxygen and nutrients. It is typically caused by suffering from multiple strokes or sustaining injuries to blood vessels in the brain.

Symptoms of vascular dementia include: 

  • Impaired judgment 
  • Inability to make decisions, plan or organize 
  • Loss of motivation 

Lewy Body Dementia

Lewy Body Dementia, or LBD, is an umbrella term for both dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinson’s disease dementia. It is one of the most common types of dementia, after Alzheimer's. Dementia with Lewy bodies starts with movement problems. Within a year, thinking and memory problems develop. Parkinson's disease dementia also starts with movement problems, however the memory problems don't occur until much later in the disease. 

Dementia with Lewy bodies is a type of progressive dementia that is characterized by abnormal microscopic deposits of a protein fragment called beta-amyloid that slowly damages the brain over time. 

Symptoms of Lewy body dementia include: 

  • Sleep disturbances 
  • Memory loss 
  • Hallucinations 
  • Sudden changes in alertness 
  • Gait imbalance 

Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s Disease is a neurological disorder caused by damaged or impaired neurons in the brain. The nerve cells that are damaged from Parkinson’s control muscle movement and function, typically causing the most common symptom, which is body tremors. As Parkinson’s progresses, it begins to affect the memory and other mental functions. Approximately 50-80% of people with Parkinson’s Disease will develop dementia, usually occurring about 10 years after the onset of Parkinson’s.

Other symptoms of Parkinson’s include: 

  • Sluggish movements 
  • Stiffness, hand cramps, frozen facial expressions 
  • Balance troubles 
  • Muffled speech patterns 
  • Depression 

Frontotemporal Dementia

Frontotemporal dementia is much more rare than the types of dementia listed above, as it is defined by progressive nerve cell loss in either the frontal lobe or temporal lobe of the brain. It includes dementias such as behavioral variant FTD, primary progressive aphasia, Pick’s disease, corticobasal degeneration, and progressive supranuclear palsy. Unlike the cognitive changes you may notice with other forms of dementia, frontotemporal dementia is characterized by emotional and behavioral changes.

The symptoms of frontotemporal dementia include: 

  • Loss of inhibition (and increase of inappropriate behavior) 
  • Decreased empathy 
  • Compulsive behavior 
  • Loss of motivation 
  • Anxiety and/or depression 

In almost a third of all frontotemporal dementia cases, there is a genetic component to the disease. While there is no cure, there are certain tests that doctors can do to see if you are genetically predisposed to developing the disease.

Mixed Dementia

In mixed dementia, there is some combination of both a neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s, and a vascular degenerative disease such as vascular dementia. 

While researchers are not quite certain how many people have been affected by mixed dementia, studies have shown that it is more common than previously thought. A majority of people age 80 and older who have been diagnosed with dementia actually had a form of mixed dementia.

Find the Help you Need

At Sunrise, we strive to provide residents with tailored care that promotes and preserves their happiness, their health, and their dignity. Sunrise offers specialized Reminiscence Neighborhoods for our residents with memory loss, skilled nurses on staff, trained and experienced caregivers, memory-focused activities, and more. Our senior living counselors are available to answer your questions to determine the best dementia care options for your loved ones. 

Learn more about our memory care or find a community near you to schedule a tour today.

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