Difficulty Completing Familiar Tasks
Some people may experience a greater problem with concentration. Routine day-to-day tasks requiring critical thought may take longer as the disease progresses.
The ability to drive safely may also be called into question. If you or a loved one gets lost while driving a commonly traveled route, this may be a symptom of AD.
The Embarrassing Reason I Wrote This Post
All too frequently, I meet a family who has been dealing with dementia for years but doesnt know what to expect or how to deal with whats going on. Im embarrassed to say that until the past week or so, my education efforts have been limited to pointing people to the Alzheimers Association.
Ive had many of these resources in my notes or on my computer for years, and Ive intended to make a more comprehensive handout for my patients. I never seemed to find the time. Now that other people are reading my blog and downloading my handouts, its motivated me to get my act together and to create something useful.
Ive organized the links to allow you to quickly find what you are looking for. Here are the major categories:
Common Forms Of Dementia
There are many different forms of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form and may contribute to 6070% of cases. Other major forms include vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies , and a group of diseases that contribute to frontotemporal dementia . The boundaries between different forms of dementia are indistinct and mixed forms often co-exist.
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You Suddenly Despise Any Kind Of Change
When dementia sufferers are experiencing confusion and memory changes, it’s common for them to stick to a strict routine, as a way to coping and feeling safer.
This might take the form of sticking to the same route on your way to work, or taking the same streets to get to the grocery store. But it’s not just about the routine â since many people have a preferred way of getting places â but the reasons why you’re always following the same path.
If you get confused when going another way, for example, or feel incredibly disoriented when deviating from your usual path, there’s a chance it’s an early warning sign of dementia.
Life As A Caregiver: My Husband Is A Different Man Now
People dont understand the magnitude of work and care that it takes to care for someone with Alzheimer’s. Its justendless. Quality sleep isnt even an option for me. If I get five hours of intermittent sleep a night, I am doing really good.
We often use dark humor to cope with difficult stuff in our family. For example, one of the big jokes in my house is about how I have some-timers because sometimes I remember things and sometimes I dont. Thats how it is for caregivers. Were under so much stress and we have so many responsibilities, it can be hard to think straight sometimes.
But just when you think you’re at your wits end and you cant do anymore, you somehow dig a little deeper and pray that God gives you a little more strength to deal with it and push forward. Some days Im still a wife, but most days, Im a caregiver. Ive lost the man that I married. Hes another man now, and I still love him, but its so different. I just keep trying to be the best wife and mother I can be.
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What You Can Do For Your Loved One
As an individual with dementia declines, you can help them by providing a loving and supportive presence. Sit with them. Hold their hand. Play music they enjoy.
One of the greatest gifts you can give your loved one is helping to get their affairs in order. Ensure that financial and healthcare powers of attorney are put in place, so you can make decisions when your loved one is no longer able. Look into funeral arrangements before you need them, so you dont need to make important decisions in a time of crisis.
Talk to your loved ones physician about the possibility of palliative care support in the home and hospice care when your loved one is ready.
Dementia And Risk From Coronavirus
Given the seriousness of coronavirus, its natural to ask whether a person with dementia is at higher risk from COVID-19. Find out what we know about the risks of catching the virus at home and in residential care, and the risk of becoming severely ill.
What Happens If A Doctor Thinks It’s Alzheimer’s Disease
If a primary care doctor suspects mild cognitive impairment or possible Alzheimers, he or she may refer the patient to a specialist who can provide a detailed diagnosis or further assessment. Specialists include:
- Geriatricians, who manage health care in older adults and know how the body changes as it ages and whether symptoms indicate a serious problem
- Geriatric psychiatrists, who specialize in the mental and emotional problems of older adults and can assess memory and thinking problems
- Neurologists, who specialize in abnormalities of the brain and central nervous system and can conduct and review brain scans
- Neuropsychologists, who can conduct tests of memory and thinking
Memory clinics and centers, including Alzheimers Disease Research Centers, offer teams of specialists who work together to diagnose the problem. Tests often are done at the clinic or center, which can speed up diagnosis.
What Is Frontotemporal Dementia
Frontotemporal dementia , a common cause of dementia, is a group of disorders that occur when nerve cells in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain are lost. This causes the lobes to shrink. FTD can affect behavior, personality, language, and movement.
These disorders are among the most common dementias that strike at younger ages. Symptoms typically start between the ages of 40 and 65, but FTD can strike young adults and those who are older. FTD affects men and women equally.
The most common types of FTD are:
- Frontal variant. This form of FTD affects behavior and personality.
- Primary progressive aphasia. Aphasia means difficulty communicating. This form has two subtypes:
- Progressive nonfluent aphasia, which affects the ability to speak.;
- Semantic dementia, which affects the ability to use and understand language. ;
A less common form of FTD affects movement, causing symptoms similar to Parkinson disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis .
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Your Behaviors & Moods Have Changed
While it’s totally normal to experience mood changes throughout the day, a major shift in your personality can be a sign of early-onset dementia. And this is something you may pick up on, or it may be pointed out by a friend.
As Dr. Tawwab says, “A significant shift in personality, like shy to outgoing, can represent a decrease in awareness of inhibitions,” which can be a sign of dementia-related changes in the brain. Usually, this is due to the loss of neurons, and the type of behavioral change involved can depend on the part of the brain affected.
When the frontal lobe is impacted, for example, a person might experience changes in their ability to focus or pay attention, since that’s the area responsible for those actions.
The Losses Pile Up: Jobs Cars Insurance
At the time of Kens diagnosis, it was hard to find any information at all about the early-onset Alzheimers. I reached out to everyone I could think of doctors, co-workers, social workers, Alzheimers organizations. I scoured the Internet. Even the support groups I visited were geared toward people dealing with their elderly parents.
The first couple of years werent bad. Ken had a few minor episodes. But things got worse as the disease progressed. He has wandered off; weve had to use police to locate him. He has lost our vehicles. Hes had rages. There is nothing that can prepare you for what every day begins to be like.
It also took a huge financial toll. Ken was the primary income provider before he stopped working. I also had to stop working to care for him full-time, though I do odd jobs whenever I can to help make ends meet. We lost our incomes, our insurance. Weve had to sell anything we owned that was of any value.
Ken and the children receive disability compensation, but we dont qualify for food assistance because his unearned income is too high. And though there are many agencies out there with government grants to help people with Alzheimer’s, Ken isnt eligible for most because the funds are stipulated for older people.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Frontotemporal Dementia
Symptoms of FTD start gradually and progress steadily, and in some cases, rapidly. They vary from person to person, depending on the areas of the brain involved. These are common symptoms:
- Behavior and/or dramatic personality changes, such as swearing, stealing, increased interest in sex, or a deterioration in personal hygiene habits
- Socially inappropriate, impulsive, or repetitive behaviors
- Impaired judgment
- Increasing dependence
Some people have physical symptoms, such as tremors, muscle spasms or weakness, rigidity, poor coordination and/or balance, or difficulty swallowing. Psychiatric symptoms, such as hallucinations or delusions, also may occur, although these are not as common as behavioral and language changes.
What Are The Signs Of Alzheimer’s Disease
Scientists continue to unravel the complex brain changes involved in the onset and progression of Alzheimers disease. It seems likely that damage to the brain starts a decade or more before memory and other cognitive problems appear. During this preclinical stage of Alzheimers disease, people seem to be symptom-free, but toxic changes are taking place in the brain.
Damage occurring in the brain of someone with Alzheimers disease begins to show itself in very early clinical signs and symptoms. For most people with Alzheimersthose who have the late-onset varietysymptoms first appear in their mid-60s. Signs of early-onset Alzheimers begin between a persons 30s and mid-60s.
The first symptoms of Alzheimers vary from person to person. Memory problems are typically one of the first signs of cognitive impairment related to Alzheimers disease. Decline in non-memory aspects of cognition, such as word-finding, vision/spatial issues, and impaired reasoning or judgment, may also signal the very early stages of Alzheimers disease. And some people may be diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment. As the disease progresses, people experience greater memory loss and other cognitive difficulties.
Alzheimers disease progresses in several stages: preclinical, mild , moderate, and severe .
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Paranoia Delusion And Hallucinations
Distortions of reality, such as paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations, can be another result of the disease process in dementia. Not everyone with dementia develops these symptoms, but they can make dementia much more difficult to handle.
Lewy body dementia, in particular, increases the likelihood of delusions and hallucinations, although they can occur in all types of dementia.
Getting Connected To Services After Diagnosis
â said, âOh, this is great, we have a diagnosis, what do we do now? Is there a pill, orâ¦?â And this is when the doctor said: âNo, thereâs no pill, thereâs nothing that we can do at all,â and youâll have to basically âgo home, get your affairs in order because you will die from this.ââ â from Ontario. Mary Beth lives with young onset frontotemporal dementia.
Even after an accurate diagnosis is made, a younger person with dementia is still likely to face obstacles. These obstacles may start with being unable to get more information about dementia or find referral to dementia-focused programs and services in their community.
We know that many people living with dementia go on to live very fulfilling lives for quite some time. Unfortunately, due to lack of knowledge and training, some healthcare providers still seem to offer little hope or support for life after diagnosis.
However, even if their doctor is helpful and can suggest practical next steps, there is another significant obstacle for the person diagnosed with young onset dementia to overcome.
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Your Genes Are Not Your Destiny
Studies show that our genetics predict only about 20-30% of our longevity. The rest is up to our lifestyle choices. Its similar for dementia risk. When Bud saw his brain scans and his cognitive testing results, he got serious about his physical health and his brain health. He completely overhauled his dietdramatically reducing his sugar consumption, increasing his intake of protein and healthy fats, decreasing the number of processed carbohydrates, and adding important nutritional supplements. He also started exercising and began using a CPAP machine to help his sleep apnea.;;
Within a year, he dropped 30 pounds and was happy to seeblood pressure and blood sugar levels fall into a healthy range. Even better,he said his memory and focus were better than when he was in his 20s. Withthese lifestyle changes, Bud had lowered his risk for the dreaded disease. Youcan do it too.
A Crushing Diagnosis: Early
We went to Kens primary care doctor. He suggested maybe it was depression, but Ken didnt feel depressed. The doctor put him on antidepressants anyway. The symptoms didnt go away. After seven or eight months, I thought, this is getting ridiculous. Thats when we went to see the neurologist who tested Ken and concluded he had early-onset Alzheimers ;a week before his 30th birthday.
At first, I thought the doctor was joking. I didnt know people could get Alzheimers so young. But the follow-up PET and CT scans confirmed the diagnosis. We were then told we had just 7 to 10 good years left with Ken. That was six years ago.
I didnt know a whole lot about Alzheimers. No one in either of our families had ever had it. I was working in hospice as a business coordinator at the time and there were people on my roster who had the disease, but they were old people.
What Ive learned is that Alzheimers disease is a type of dementia that destroys memory and mental function over time and causes changes in personality and behavior as I saw in Ken. Certain medications and treatments may help manage symptoms like memory loss, but there is no cure. If you get diagnosed when youre younger than 65, like Ken, its called early-onset Alzheimers. My husband is one of about 200,000 Americans who have this form of Alzheimer’s.
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What Is The Burden Of Alzheimers Disease In The United States
- Alzheimers disease is one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States.2
- The 6th leading cause of death among US adults.
- The 5th leading cause of death among adults aged 65 years or older.3
In 2020, an estimated 5.8 million Americans aged 65 years or older had Alzheimers disease.1 This number is projected to nearly triple to 14 million people by 2060.1
In 2010, the costs of treating Alzheimers disease were projected to fall between $159 and $215 billion.4 By 2040, these costs are projected to jump to between $379 and more than $500 billion annually.4
Death rates for Alzheimers disease are increasing, unlike heart disease and cancer death rates that are on the decline.5 Dementia, including Alzheimers disease, has been shown to be under-reported in death certificates and therefore the proportion of older people who die from Alzheimers may be considerably higher.6
Earlier Prevention And Intervention
Researchers plan to look at a larger number of seniors to determine if the ones with higher amyloid build up have a higher risk for Alzheimers or dementia. Because of the smaller sample size of this study, it was hard to determine how much variability there is among the general population. Some;seniors in the study were found to have the same amount of amyloid buildup that was also seen in the brains of younger adults.
Dr. Yvette Sheline, professor of psychiatry, radiology and neurology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, noted that while it was interesting to see;amyloid accumulation at an early age, the findings were based on a small handful of brain samples and that it was impossible to know if the younger adults would ultimately develop Alzheimers, or if beta-amyloid accumulation is a normal part of human physiology.
Taking into consideration the small sample size, other researchers believe the new findings may be instrumental in providing insight into the beginning of Alzheimers. Geula is hopeful that the findings of his team will lead to early intervention and a new way to treat the disease. He said:
The implication appears to be that if we want to prevent these clumps from forming when a person becomes old, we may need to intervene much earlier than we have thought, to try and get rid of amyloid very early in life.
Alzheimers Disease Causes And Warning Signs
Researchers contradict on what causes the disease, although age, personal health, family history, genetics and abnormal protein deposits in the brain are believed to contribute. As per the CDC & Alzheimer Association, they often include the following:
- Age and family history
- Abnormal protein deposits in the brain
- Other risk and environmental factors
- Immune system problems
The first, most common warning sign of Alzheimers disease is changing in short-term memory that may disrupt daily life, such as forgetting words or names, or how to get to a familiar location. Also affected are familiar tasks, like cooking or paying bills, may become challenging.
According to the Alzheimers Association, the following are the most common symptoms of Alzheimers disease; however, individuals may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may begin with a reduced ability to take in and remember new information, which can lead, for example, to repetitive questions or conversations.
One may find difficulty thinking of common words while speaking, including hesitation. Speech, spelling, and writing errors are common. We misplace commonly used personal belongings like shoes, wallet, house keys.; Another symptom is forgetting events or appointments. The most frightening of all is getting lost on a familiar route. This is when family members become concerned about allowing the affected person to drive.