Rapidly progressive dementia is a form of dementia where symptoms progress quickly within the span of a few weeks or months. Although rapidly progressive dementia is rare, a new diagnosis can be distressing for both the individual affected and their families.
If you or your loved one has been recently diagnosed with rapidly progressive dementia, you may feel overwhelmed and uncertain about the future. In this guide, we aim to answer some of the questions that you may have about what rapidly progressive dementia is and what you can expect after a diagnosis.
If you or your loved ones have substantial or on-going care needs due to a chronic condition like dementia, you do not have to cope alone. At The Good Care Group, we have over 10 years of experience in providing quality and compassionate care to individuals with dementia and their families.
Do not hesitate to contact us to talk to us about your care needs.
WHAT IS RAPIDLY PROGRESSIVE DEMENTIA (RPD)?
Dementia is a progressive condition meaning that symptoms gradually worsen over time. Rapidly progressive dementia is characterized by the unusually fast development of cognitive decline and other symptoms.
While in other forms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s cognitive decline is gradual and may happen over the course of several years, with rapidly progressive dementia the progression is faster and may occur in as little as a few weeks or months. There is no established timeframe for how long the progression will take, but in most cases, individuals go from normal cognition to late-stage dementia within one year.
HOW IS RAPIDLY PROGRESSIVE DEMENTIA DIFFERENT FROM OTHER FORMS OF DEMENTIA?
Dementia is a general term used to describe cognitive problems such as memory loss, language difficulties, and thinking problems that are so severe they affect an individual’s ability to perform everyday tasks. While Alzheimer’s type is the most common form of dementia, over 40 different conditions can lead to the development of dementia.
Rapid progressive dementia differs from other forms of dementia due to the severity of its progression along with its rarity. While the presentation and progress of individuals with RPD will vary from person to person, RPD can functionally impair a person at a faster rate than other forms of dementia. When compared to other forms of dementia, RPD is also far more rare and difficult to diagnose.
While some forms of RPD are reversible through treatment if diagnosed early, other forms regrettably are not.
What are the causes of Rapidly Progressive Dementia (RPD)?
There are many causes of RPD including:
Hormonal disturbances and metabolic disorders
Disturbed blood flow to the brain, including strokes
Side effects of prescribed medication
Structural problems of the brain
Diagnosing rapidly progressive dementia
Rapidly progressive dementia is often challenging to diagnose. However, accurately diagnosing RPD is crucial to ensuring rapid treatment that may protect the brain from future damage.
An early assessment, usually undertaken in a hospital setting, can first rule out other common causes of fast cognitive decline such as infections, cancer, toxins, autoimmune conditions, or vascular disease. Investigations of RPD will likely include laboratory testing of the blood, urine, and spinal fluids to help doctors establish any other causes.
Due to the rarity of RPD, most cases of sudden cognitive decline in older adults can be explained by other medical conditions such as urine infections and pneumonia. Such conditions can cause confusion, disorientation, and muddled speech which may mimic the symptoms of RPD and other forms of dementia. Once the underlying condition is treated, these symptoms will usually resolve on their own.
After ruling out any underlying causes, the brain must be scanned using an MRI or CT device and an electroencephalogram, or EEG. A physical examination and personal history can also help rule out or confirm a diagnosis of RPD.
What are the treatments for rapidly progressive dementia?
The treatment for RPD will depend on the form of RPD diagnosed, the stage of the condition, and its cause. If the RPD is the symptom of another condition such as cancer or vascular disease, then treating that underlying cause will also help treat the RPD.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for many forms of RPD, but treatment can help reduce the pain, anxiety, and distress that is often associated with the condition.
How live-in care can help?
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with rapidly progressive dementia, you may feel your only option to receive the care you need is to move into a residential nursing or care home. While this may be a suitable option for receiving dedicated dementia care, leaving the comfort and familiarity of home is often confusing and distressing for people living with dementia.
Live-in care allows your loved ones to receive the quality dementia care they need while being able to stay in the comfort of their own home. A highly-trained and well-matched professional carer will move into their home and provide them with one-to-one dedicated care. This allows individuals diagnosed with dementia to continue to thrive at home despite the challenges presented by dementia with the gentle encouragement and support of a professional carer.
The Good Care Group has been innovating live-in dementia care for over 10 years. Our professional and compassionate carers are well-versed in a wide range of best dementia care practices designed to reassure your loved ones, reduce stress and anxiety and facilitate communication. The superior levels of support provided by our carers have resulted in a 66% reduction in the use of antipsychotic medications compared to the average care home.
We adopt a multidisciplinary approach to care and collaborate closely with healthcare professionals, academic bodies, and leading dementia charities. Each of our professional carers is trained in the SPECAL method which allows them to communicate efficiently, reduce distress and anxiety, and calm behaviors that challenge
We are dedicated to providing people living with dementia and their families with outstanding and award-winning dementia care at home. Do not hesitate to contact us to discuss your dementia care needs with our friendly and approachable team.
To support you and your family we have created a useful Dementia Care Guide which provides you with information and advice on how to provide person-centred dementia care following a diagnosis of dementia. There is also a number of dementia charities across the UK who provide families with help, advice and support when they need it most, including Dementia UK and the Alzheimer’s Society.