The most common misconception is that Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are one and the same. To clarify, dementia is a broad category of brain diseases that cause a long term and often gradual decrease in the ability to think and remember such that a person's daily functioning is affected.
The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer's disease which makes up 50% to 70% of cases. It is a neurological deterioration in the brain as opposed to vascular dementia (25%) which is a dementia caused by circulatory deterioration in the brain. Poor circulation leads to poor oxygenation of the nerve cells ultimately causing cell death and memory loss.
There are over 70 types of dementia. Some of the more common dementias are Lewy body dementia (15%), and frontotemporal dementia. Less common causes of dementia include normal pressure hydrocephalus, Parkinson's disease, syphilis, and Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease. More than one type of dementia may exist in the same person.
Diagnosis is usually based on history of the illness and cognitive testing with neuro imaging and blood work used to rule out other possible causes. You can request a simple memory screen from your doctor or from the clinical staff at Hope Dementia & Alzheimer’s Services to begin the process.
Other symptoms an individual or caregiver might notice might include emotional problems, problems with language and a decrease in motivation. Dementia does not affect a person’s consciousness. For the dementia diagnosis to be present it must be a change from a person's usual mental functioning and exhibit a greater decline than one would expect due to normal aging.
Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease before the age of 65 is known as Young Onset or Early Onset Alzheimer’s disease. Approximately 13% of the cases of early-onset Alzheimer's are familial Alzheimer's disease, where a genetic predisposition leads to the disease.
The other incidences of early onset Alzheimer's share the same traits as the 'late onset' form commonly referred to as age-related Alzheimer's disease, and little is understood about how it starts. Non-familial early onset Alzheimer's can develop in people who are in their thirties or forties, but that is extremely rare. The majority of people with early-onset Alzheimer's are in their fifties or early sixties.
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Efforts to prevent dementia include decreasing risk factors such as high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, obesity, and increasing physical exercise, maintaining a heart healthy diet, providing social stimulation, and ensuring a good night’s sleep each night.
If you are concerned, call Hope Dementia & Alzheimer’s Services for a consultation or an assessment. Though there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease or any of the dementias, developing a care plan early and receiving education and emotional support can make a big difference in how families successfully live with the diagnosis.
Over 5 million people in the United States have some form of dementia. It becomes more common with age: approximately 3% of people between the ages of 65–74 develop the diagnosis; 19% between 75 and 84; and nearly half of those over 85 years of age. As more people are living longer, dementia is becoming more common in the population as a whole.
It is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and the fifth leading cause of death for those 65 and older. One in nine people age 65 and older has Alzheimer’s disease. Nearly one in three seniors who dies each year has Alzheimer’s or another dementia.
These diseases also have a significant effect on a person's caregivers. Sixty percent of these caregivers report high levels of stress, while one-third report symptoms of depression. Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease is physically, emotionally and financially challenging. The demands for day-to-day care, changing family roles and difficult decisions about placement in a care facility can be hard to handle.
Better access to and knowledge of services can help caregivers provide a higher quality of care to loved ones as the disease progresses, helping them to reside in the community for as long as possible. Most care for people with Alzheimer’s is delivered at home by family members and they often must seek community supportive services.
Hope Dementia & Alzheimer’s Services can help. We offer a wide array of services for those living with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia, their caregivers, and the healthcare professionals and community agencies that support them.