What is Dementia?

First let’s start with understanding dementia, because often times we hear the words Alzheimer’s and dementia used interchangeably. Dementia is not a specific disease, but a general term used to describe a decline in one’s cognitive functioning that is severe enough to interfere with activities of daily living. Dementia symptoms include problems with at least two of the following: communication/language skills, memory, judgement, visual perception, and attention. There are multiple types of dementia. Alzheimer’s happens to be the most common type of dementia, that is why you hear the term most commonly because it makes up around 60 to 80 percent of all dementias. Dementia could be compared to the term cancer, because cancer is a general term and there are multiple types of cancer. The doctor does not just diagnosis cancer, but he or she diagnoses the type of cancer.

Irreversible Types of Dementia

So if Alzheimer’s is not the only type of dementia, what are the other types? Dementia can be placed in two categories, irreversible and reversible. Irreversible types of dementia include Alzheimer’s, because there is no current cure or way to stop the progression of the disease. The second most common type of dementia, Vascular Dementia, is also irreversible. Vascular dementia is caused by a lack of blood to the brain, usually due to strokes, and typically the symptoms vary depending on the part of the brain where blood flow is restricted. The third most common type of dementia is Lewy Body Dementia, which has symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s but there are typically more issues with movement. There are other types of irreversible dementias, but these are the most common.

Reversible Types of Dementia

There are types of dementia that are reversible, that is why it is important to find out what the cause of one’s dementia is. For instance, vitamin deficiency, mental health issues, and drug/alcohol abuse can cause dementia symptoms, but if you solve the underlying cause of the symptoms, the dementia is treatable and reversible. Granted reversible dementias only make up a small percentage of dementias, but this is why it is imperative to see your medical provider if you notice that your loved one is showing signs of dementia. If you know the type of dementia, you can follow the best plan of care.

How Do I Know What Type of Dementia My Loved One Has?

Most people assume that they have to take a scan of your brain to determine if you have Alzheimer’s, which is in fact not true. There is no one single test for Alzheimer’s! Medical providers are able to reach a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s by ruling out any other causes of the dementia. Be careful of test online or other gimmicks on the internet. These are not scientifically proven and make claims that they can determine if someone has Alzheimer’s. Your loved one needs to see their medical provider for a comprehensive medical exam. Your loved one’s medical provider should look at medical history, medications, blood test, and other tests/questions as deemed necessary. It is also very important for medical providers to hear from family members or close friends on what signs and symptoms they are seeing. Remember that not all physicians are comfortable with discussing dementia. Call resources such as Denver Senior Care or the Alzheimer’s Association to find the right doctor for your loved one and how to properly prepare for doctor visits.