The term ‘dementia’ is used to describe the symptoms that occur when the brain is affected by certain diseases and conditions, such as memory loss.
What is important to understand is that there are various different types of dementia. Usually, people associate the term ‘dementia’ with Alzheimer’s disease. Whilst this is the most common cause of dementia, it is not the only one. Learning about different types of dementia is important because each one has its own set of characteristics.
Types of dementia include:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Vascular dementia
- Dementia with Lewy bodies
- Fronto-temporal dementia
- Korsakoff’s syndrome
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
- HIV-related cognitive impairment
- Mild cognitive impairment
There are also rarer forms of dementia such as supranuclear palsy and Binswanger’s disease. The Alzheimer’s Society publishes information about the various types of dementia on its website.
Here we will explore some of the most common forms of dementia including their early signs and symptoms.
Common forms of dementia
Alzheimer’s disease affects around 465,000 people in the UK [Figures from the Alzheimer’s Society]. It is a physical disease that affects the brain. The disease sees ‘plaques’ and ‘tangles’ develop in the structure of the brain. These plaques and tangles kill off brain cells. People suffering with the disease are also affected by a shortage of important chemicals in their brains. These chemicals help to transmit messages around the brain. Without them, these messages cannot be delivered.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that damages more and more parts of the brain as time goes on. As this happens, so the symptoms become more severe. For example, people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s experience short memory lapses, perhaps struggling to find the right words for things. As the disease develops, sufferers will forget words – along with the names of people and places – as a matter of course. Understandably, this is both frustrating and frightening, and accordingly Alzheimer’s sufferers may experience mood swings as the disease takes hold.
Individuals who are living with dementia will ultimately require round-the-clock care and will need to find a care solution where they can benefit from dedicated care and support from expertly trained care providers. This may be a residential care home or a live in care service from a home care company.
Vascular dementia is the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease. It is caused by problems in the supply of blood to the brain as a result of damage to a network of blood vessels in the organ called the vascular system. A damaged vascular system will not allow blood to reach the brain, which kills off brain cells – and this can lead to vascular dementia.
A number of conditions can incur damage to the vascular system including high blood pressure, heart problems, high cholesterol and diabetes. If these conditions are spotted early enough, they can be managed and as a result present less of a threat to the vascular system. Vascular dementia can also be brought on by a stroke.
Symptoms include forgetfulness, restlessness, confusion and aggression.
Dementia with Lewy bodies
Lewy body dementia (LBD) is a disease associated with abnormal deposits of a protein called alpha-synuclein in the brain. In the UK, around 15% of people diagnosed with dementia will have dementia with Lewy bodies.
Dementia with Lewy bodies is a progressive type of dementia that leads to a decline in thinking, reasoning and independent function. It tends to develop slowly and get gradually worse over several years.
People with Lewy body dementia often have visual hallucinations and changes in alertness and attention. Its symptoms are similar to those of Parkinson’s disease including rigid muscles, slow movement, walking difficulty and tremors.
Frontotemporal dementia is an uncommon form of dementia that affects the front and sides of the brain (the frontal and temporal lobes). In the UK, around 2% of all dementia diagnoses are of frontotemporal dementia.
While most dementias affect people over the age of 65, frontotemporal dementia tends to start at a younger age. While the majority of people are diagnosed between the ages of 45 – 65, it can also affect people that are older or younger.
Like many other forms of dementia, frontotemporal dementia tends to develop slowly and get gradually worse over several years. Signs of frontotemporal dementia can include personality and behavioural changes, language problems, and problems with thinking, reasoning and memory.
Less common forms of dementia
There are many other forms of dementia, although they are much rarer. In the UK, about 1 in 20 people living with dementia have a rarer type. It is believed that this number may be higher as less common forms of dementia are not as easily recognised and diagnosed.
Some of the rare forms of dementia include:
- Korsakoff syndrome
- Huntington’s disease
- Posterior cortical atrophy (PCA)
- Primary progressive aphasia (PPA)
- Normal pressure hydrocephalus
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
To support you and your family, we have created a useful Dementia Care Guide that provides you with practical information and advice on how to provide person-centred dementia care following a diagnosis of dementia.
Specialist dementia home care
If you or a loved one are living with dementia and require extra support at any stage of your diagnosis, our live-in carers who is trained in expert dementia care can provide both practical assistance and the emotional support and care that is needed when living with dementia. A live-in carer also enables the person living with dementia to remain at home, which is greatly advantageous from the point of view of providing continuity of care in familiar surroundings and promoting a sense of calm and overall well-being.
We are extremely lucky to have an in-house dementia expert, Consultant Admiral Nurse Dr Jane Prichard, who oversees and supports the care delivery for our dementia care clients with more complex needs. Jane works alongside our resident Occupational Therapist, Jackie Cooper, to ensure those in the later stages of dementia can receive specialist, person-centred care in their own home.
For more information on dementia home care or if you would like to arrange a care assessment with a local care manager, call us or complete an enquiry form.