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Dementia Terminology

One of the best ways of demystifying dementia and gaining an understanding of the condition is to familiarise yourself with the meaning of common terms associated with dementia.

The term ‘dementia’ itself is the collective name for a range of conditions affecting the brain each of which manifests itself as a progressive decline in cognitive and intellectual functioning. Dementia may arise as the result of a disease such as Alzheimer’s or following a head injury or one or more strokes. The symptom most commonly associated with dementia is loss of memory; although as the condition progresses it may affect speech, learning, behaviour and emotion.

Here is an explanation of some of the terminology connected with dementia, including definitions of the most common types of the condition.

Agnosia is the loss of the ability to recognise familiar people or objects by sight, touch, taste, smell, or sound.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia and results in the loss of nerve cells in the brain which are important to memory and cognitive functioning. As the disease progresses, microscopic protein fragments known as plaques and tangles build up between nerve cells. Normal chemical functions within the brain degenerate and the overall structure of the brain itself is altered, usually becoming smaller in size.

Anomia is an inability to remember or recognise the names of objects and may become increasingly noticeable as the condition progresses.

Apraxia is the inability to complete a practised and familiar motor task such as buttoning up a shirt. Even though the desire to carry out the task is present and all of the parts of the brain needed to do so are functioning, the communicative link between the ‘thinking’ and ‘doing’ parts of the brain is broken.

Creutzfeldt Jacob Disease (CJD) is a disease caused by the presence of rogue prions which alter proteins in the body in such a way that they rapidly harm the body’s central nervous system and brain. CJD is an extremely rare condition affecting an estimated one in every million people.

Cerebellum. This is the area of the brain responsible for controlling our balance and coordination.

Cognition is a collective term for the thought processes which enable our perceptions, understanding and reasoning of ourselves and our environment.

Dementia with Lewy bodies. Also known as ‘Lewy body Disease’, this form of dementia was named after its discoverer, Frederick Lewy. Lewy bodies are deposits of protein within the brain which affect its functionality and may cause issues with visual recognition, balance, co-ordination and also give rise to hallucinations. Individuals with Parkinson’s disease may have Lewy bodies present in the mid-brain.

Dysarthria is an inability to speak clearly as a result of the loss of co-ordination of the muscles associated with speech.

Dysphagia is the medical term for the symptom of difficulty in swallowing

Dysphasia is a partial or complete impairment of the ability to communicate resulting from brain injury that can be caused by dementia

Frontal Lobe. This area of the brain immediately behind the forehead is associated with our personality, emotions, reasoning, planning, problem-solving and aspects of speech.

Frontotemporal dementia is a rare degenerative condition usually resulting from damage to the frontal lobe and which often affects younger people between the ages of thirty and sixty. This type of dementia negatively impacts judgment and social behaviour, can cause agitation and may result in the rapid diminishment of language and the appearance of obsessive and repetitive behaviour.

Hippocampus. This is the region of the brain responsible for emotion and short-term memory.

Korsakoff’s syndrome. This form of dementia is often associated with heavy drinking and alcoholism and is a degenerative brain disease. Symptoms include the loss of short-term memory and the inability to learn and retain new skills.

Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) is defined as a cognitive problem which is sufficiently severe as to be noticed by other people but insufficiently serious as to have a negative impact upon everyday life.

Occipital Lobe. Situated at the lower rear of the brain, the occipital lobe is responsible for sight and our ability to recognise objects.

Neurodegenerative Disease. A condition such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease which is characterised by the progressive degeneration of brain tissue resulting in impaired brain activity and cognitive function. Neurodegenerative diseases most often affect older people.

Parietal Lobes. Located behind the frontal lobes at the upper rear of the brain, the parietal lobes process sensory nerve responses such as touch, taste, pressure, temperature and pain. They are also connected to some language functions.

Parkinson’s disease. A slow, progressive degenerative disease of the brain, Parkinson’s disease results from the death of cells called neurons which are vital to the correct functioning of the central nervous system. In addition to dementia, symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include muscle tremor, impaired speech and restricted movement.

Person-centric Care is a holistic and individually-tailored approach to dementia care which is built around the needs of the person with dementia and takes into account their past and present lifestyle, experiences, character and personal preferences.

Temporal Lobes. The brain’s temporal lobes can be found just above each ear and are responsible for processing auditory information i.e. whatever we hear. They are also connected with memory, the interpretation of meaning, language, emotion and learning.

Vascular Dementia is often the result of a stroke or a series of ‘mini-strokes’ which restrict the supply of blood to the brain and cause brain tissue to die. Contributory factors to the onset of vascular dementia may include high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and heart disease. The impairment of cognitive function progresses step-by-step, with concentration and mood noticeably severely affected. The likelihood of vascular dementia increases with strokes which afflict the left hemisphere of the brain or the hippocampus.

Despite advances in diagnostic techniques, it is still relatively difficult to definitively diagnose the type of dementia that may be affecting an individual as there are more than 150 identified variations. The Good Care Group, one the UK’s leading providers of bespoke live-in home care, offer person-centric support and assistance plans to benefit people with any kind of dementia helping them to lead an independent and fulfilled life. You can find out more about our award winning live-in dementia care services here. Alternatively, to speak to someone about your dementia care requirements please call 0203 728 7577.

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