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Understanding Dementia Categories

Understanding Dementia Categories

Dementia is a broad category of brain diseases and conditions including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease dementia, and Lewy body dementia.  These conditions share a number of symptoms including memory loss, disorientation, mood swings and problems communicating.

Dementia primarily affects older people who are over the age of 60.  The prevalence of dementia increases as a person gets older, with the number of people who have the disease doubling for every 5 years beyond the age of 65.  By the time an elderly person passes away there is a one-in-three chance that they have suffered from Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.

This article is about understanding dementia categories and will answer some common questions that people have about dementia.  The answers will give you some useful information that may help you or a loved one deal with these challenging diseases.

How are the different types of dementia related?

Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease dementia, and Lewy body dementia are all linked by a common symptom — a build-up of certain proteins in the brain.

One of those proteins is called alpha-synuclein.  Dementia patients develop microscopic “clumps” of alpha-synuclein which are deposited in the brain and spinal cord.  The clumps are referred to as “Lewy bodies” after the scientist that discovered them, Frederic Lewy.

Other proteins that are often found in dementia patients include beta-amyloid and tau.  Clumps of beta-amyloid are referred to as plaques and clumps of tau are referred to as tangles.  These proteins interfere with brain function and mobility.

Scientists do not understand why these proteins accumulate in this way.  They have discovered that many forms of dementia involve Lewy bodies, plaques, and/or tangles.  A great deal of dementia research is focused on finding ways to alter production of these proteins or reduce their impact on brain function.

What role does oxidative stress play?

Oxidative stress is an imbalance between the production of free radicals in the body and the antioxidants required to neutralize their harmful effects.  Scientists believe that oxidative stress may play a role in the development of several types of dementia.  Oxidative stress is common in older people which may explain the buildup of certain proteins in the brain and spinal cord as people age.

What can be done to reduce oxidative stress and the risk of dementia?

Because dementia is a complex disease and scientists don’t fully understand the causes, it is impossible to fully eliminate the risk of being afflicted with the disease.  However, some steps can be taken to reduce the risk of dementia including regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, staying mentally stimulated, enjoying quality sleep, managing stress and having an active social life.

What are the differences between Parkinson’s disease dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and Lewy body dementia?

Dementia is an umbrella term for any condition that causes a significant loss of cognitive function.  It covers a number of diseases, including Parkinson’s disease dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and Lewy body dementia.

Lewy body dementia and Parkinson’s disease dementia have the most in common.  Both diseases result in problems with movement and have Lewy bodies present.  The key difference is that Parkinson’s disease tends to have a longer period of movement impairment before it progresses to dementia.  Lewy body dementia can have less than a year of movement impairment before dementia appears or dementia may immediately appear before any movement impairment is noticed.

Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease appear to be closely linked as well.  A study performed in 2003 found that the cognitive decline from Alzheimer’s disease makes a person eight times more likely to also develop Parkinson’s disease.  Scientists are unsure how the prevalence of each protein in the brain determines which type of neurodegenerative disease the patient gets.

How non-medical home care can help

Home care provides assistance for the elderly living at home.  A variety of services are available including cooking, cleaning, transportation to doctor’s appointments, physical assistance, performing laundry and much more.

Home care professionals can be used to help seniors with a neurodegenerative conditions stay in their home instead of being compelled to move into an assisted living facility.  Some of the ways that home care can help seniors with dementia include:

  • Help getting to doctor’s appointments and other social events
  • Cooking of meals
  • Assistance with personal hygiene
  • Help performing a variety of daily tasks like getting dressed
  • Cleaning of the home
  • Help organizing and reminding to take medications
  • Making the home a safe living environment for someone with dementia
  • Providing companionship
  • Assistance with rehabilitation techniques and much more

We hope you enjoyed “Understanding Dementia Categories”.  If you have any questions about managing dementia, contact All Heart Home Care at 619-736-4677.  We offer in-home consultations and would love to discuss the many home care services available.

Eric Barth
Eric Barth
CEO and blogger for All Heart Home Care. I devote myself to helping seniors age in their own home while maintaining a feeling of independence, preserve their dignity, and enhance the quality of their life. I write these blogs to help educate the public on issues surrounding what seniors find to be the most important. My blogs are from my own personal research. I hope you enjoy my blog posts.

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