Did you know that:
While Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, it is not the only type of dementia.
- Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are not interchangeable
- Alzheimer’s disease shouldn’t be used as an umbrella term to describe older adults who are experiencing memory loss
In fact, while Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia (dementia is the general term used to describe a severe decline in memory and cognitive ability that actually interferes with daily life), Alzheimer’s disease is not the only type of dementia.
What are some other types of dementia?
Alzheimer’s disease is perhaps the most well-known type of dementia. However, according to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, there are many other types of dementia. Keep reading for a brief description on a few of the other types of dementia.
Vascular dementia: This is the second most common type of dementia and can occur after a stroke. The symptoms are varied but the most obvious ones are confusion, disorientation, trouble speaking (or understanding speech), and vision loss. Other conditions that damage blood vessels and reduce circulation, depriving the brain of oxygen and nutrients, can also cause vascular dementia such as chronic high glucose levels in people with diabetes, high cholesterol levels, and high blood pressure to name a few. Therefore, the best way to prevent vascular dementia is to control the risk factors for these and other conditions that increase the risk for a heart attack or stroke.
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease: This is a fast-acting, rare form of irreversible dementia caused by infectious proteins called prions that attack the brain, kill cells, and create gaps in brain tissue. In cattle, it’s known as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy epidemic (BSE or, more commonly, “mad cow disease”). In addition to memory loss and mood swings, some of the symptoms the person will experience include difficulty with balance, muscle jerks or twitching, and vision problems including blindness.
Lewy body dementia: This type of dementia affects a person’s ability to think and move due to abnormal deposits of alpha-synuclein proteins inside the brain’s nerve cells. Like Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Lewy body dementia also progresses quickly and has many symptoms that are similar to Alzheimer’s disease. Other symptoms include visual hallucinations, stiffness of muscles, tremors, a stooped posture, and slow, shuffling movements.
What causes dementia?
Although the cause of dementia has not yet been determined, dementia occurs when a person’s brain cells can’t communicate with each other. This impacts a person’s ability to think, behave, and express their feelings in a normal way. While it’s true that memory loss is one of the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s disease, forgetfulness does not necessarily mean an automatic diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
There are many factors that can affect someone’s memory such as certain medications, sleep deprivation, nutritional deficiency, a head injury, etc. We all forget things as we grow older; however, memory loss is not considered to be a normal part of aging.
If you or the person you are caring for are experiencing frequent memory loss outside of typical forgetfulness (for example, forgetting the day of the week but able to remember it soon after), consult with a health care professional.
Just as memory loss is not a normal part of aging, there is no standard test to determine if someone has dementia once they’ve hit a certain age. Dementia can affect people who are younger than age 65.
In order to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, health care professionals study numerous factors such as medical history, physical exams, laboratory tests, and changes in cognitive and physical skills, as well as behaviours.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for most progressive types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. Consult with a health care professional about management options that can help alleviate or slow down the progression of dementia symptoms.
Dementia is a worldwide issue that could significantly impact future generations.
In 2015, there were 47.5 million people – more than the population of Canada – living with dementia worldwide. Today, there are over 750,000 Canadians living with Alzheimer’s disease and other kinds of dementia, and that number is predicted to rise to 1.4 million by 2031 if a cure is not found. This means that by the year 2040, the economic impact of dementia in Canada will be as much as $33 billion per year.
Now that you know some of the basics of dementia, are you ready to test your knowledge with this simple true or false dementia quiz?
Caring for someone living with dementia can be a challenge but you’re not alone – we can help. An Elizz Caregiver Coach can help put together a plan that fits your unique situation or coordinate the pieces of caregiving that take up the most of your time. Call us at 1-855-275-3549 for more information and get peace of mind.