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  • Writer's pictureAdria Thompson

Understanding the Types of Dementia

Updated: 3 days ago

The brain processing information

Today, we’re diving into the most common types of dementia. Each type has unique symptoms and challenges and knowing these can really transform the care we provide.


Alzheimer's Disease


Let’s start with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, making up 60-80% of cases. The first thing you might notice is short-term memory loss. Someone with Alzheimer's might repeat stories, forget recent events, or misplace items without recalling their steps. Over time, other symptoms like disorientation and difficulties with reasoning emerge. It's also important to distinguish between young onset Alzheimer's, diagnosed before age 65, and late onset, diagnosed after. 


Vascular Dementia


Next up is vascular dementia, which is typically caused by blood flow issues in the brain, often in individuals with a past history of a stroke or mini-stroke. The symptoms vary depending on which areas of the brain are affected, but you might see confusion, slow processing, or personality changes. It's crucial to understand that many people with vascular dementia also have a diagnosis of Alzheimer's, a condition referred to as mixed dementia.


Lewy Body Dementia


Moving on to Lewy body dementia, this type of dementia is often associated and seen alongside Parkinson’s disease as it is caused by the same proteins in the brain. One of the most common first symptoms in this kind of dementia is an REM sleep behavior disorder, where people physically act out their dreams. They also might have visual hallucinations where they see things that aren't there and experience severe shifts in alertness and mood throughout the day. Lewy body dementia can be tricky to pinpoint early on because short term memory loss isn’t always a symptom.


Frontotemporal Dementia (also known as FTD)


Frontotemporal dementia affects the frontal and temporal lobes and typically strikes between the ages of 40 and 60. It comes in two main varieties:

  • Behavioral Variant: This form is noticeable due to changes in behavior and personality, like impulsiveness or inappropriate social interactions.

  • Language Variant (Primary Progressive Aphasia): This affects communication, hindering someone’s ability to speak or understand language.


Other Types of Dementia


While Alzheimer's, vascular, Lewy body, and frontotemporal dementia are among the most recognized, many other types exist, such as:


  • Korsakoff Syndrome: Caused by a thiamine deficiency and typically associated with chronic alcohol use, this type of dementia leads to confabulations where individuals unknowingly fabricate stories.

  • Huntington’s Disease: An inherited condition that causes cognitive issues, obsessive-compulsive tendencies, and paranoia.

  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease: A rapidly progressing disease marked by significant cognitive decline, often leading to death within a year of diagnosis.

  • Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus: Characterized by cerebrospinal fluid accumulation in the brain, potentially reversible with surgical intervention.


Understanding these types of dementia can help you and other care partners tailor care strategies to better meet the specific needs of your person with dementia. By recognizing the distinct symptoms and progression patterns of each type, you can provide targeted support that enhances the quality of life for individuals living with dementia.


For further resources and tools, such as condition-specific travel cards that explain these symptoms to others (see video below), feel free to visit the Be Light Care Etsy shop!



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