Understanding the Nuances of Dementia

Elderly man being taken care of

There are few things more heartbreaking than seeing a loved one forget who you are, and even who they themselves are. Typically, such sudden memory loss is a sign that a person is suffering from dementia, which many associate with forgetfulness. Dementia is more common among the elderly, and what makes it terrifying is that there is no way to tell if you are going to end up suffering from it in the future.

However, dementia is not only limited to memory loss or forgetfulness. The term “dementia” actually applies to a wide range of brain diseases that result in the loss of ability to carry out daily tasks due to diminished cognitive ability. Other cognitive functions that may be affected include attention, judgment, spatial skills, and comprehension. This can result in anxiety, agitation, hallucinations, personality changes, and difficulties in problem-solving and controlling emotions.

As a result of the effects dementia brings, people with dementia require intensive and special care. However, many families do not have the necessary knowledge or expertise to do so. Rather than spend a fortune to hire a private carer, many choose instead to check their loved one into a care center. In the United Kingdom, places such as The Vale Care Home, located in Maidstone, Kent, specialize in caring for elderly individuals afflicted with dementia.

Dementia can manifest itself in different ways, depending on the type of dementia one is afflicted with. Here are some of the most common types of dementia:

Alzheimer’s Disease

senior's hand and young woman's hand holding

Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form of dementia, which is why the two are often conflated. Alzheimer’s Disease occurs due to one of two abnormalities in the brain — plaques or tangles. Both can result in a disruption of communication between nerve cells, causing these to degenerate and die.

A person suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease would see their cognitive abilities slowly decline, beginning with memory loss, then progressing to a loss of other mental capacities such as critical thinking and the ability to perform routine tasks. This means that those who suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease also exhibit symptoms of anxiety and depression. Eventually, they lose the ability to function independently.

Vascular Dementia

Vascular dementia occurs due to damage in the brain’s blood vessels. Hence, it is one of the possible side effects of having survived a stroke or having been previously diagnosed with any kind of vascular disease. As a result of the damage to the blood vessels, blood flow to the brain is disrupted, thereby resulting in impaired brain function. Symptoms of vascular dementia may differ depending on where the damage is located, ranging from changes in motor functions and language impairment to apathy and diminished motivation.

Frontotemporal Dementia

Frontotemporal dementia occurs when there is damage in either of two areas of the brain: the frontal lobe and the temporal lobe. While damage to each manifests in different symptoms, these may overlap or combine.

The frontal lobe controls judgment and behavior, and so damage here could result in aggression, impulsiveness, violence, and a lack of inhibition. The temporal lobe, on the other hand, is responsible for language skills. Thus, a person with frontotemporal dementia may suffer from language impairments, manifested through a slurring of speech, difficulties in reading and writing, and having a hard time remembering words.