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Understanding Dementia

The term “dementia” does not actually refer to one, specific disease. Rather, it is an overall term for a set of symptoms that are caused by disorders affecting the brain.

The following statistics are from the Alzheimer’s Society:

  •  Over 500,000 Canadians are living with dementia today.
  •  24,000 are the number of Canadians diagnosed with dementia every year.
  •  65% of those diagnosed with dementia over the age of 65 are women.
  •  1 in 5 Canadians have experience caring for someone living with dementia.

It is a growing concern that this type of a disease is becoming common in the aging population.

We just want to share information on dementia as we have more clients with dementia than without.

There are numerous types of dementia but in this article, we are sharing with you four main types. Each type is unique, and so there are distinct changes to the person with dementia based on what is happening and in which part of the brain. Let’s look at the early changes for each type.

Alzheimer’s (the most common type of dementia): communication between nerve cells is disrupted and this causes memory loss, problems with language, confusion, vision problems, difficulty with everyday tasks, and mood swings.

Vascular dementia (the second most common type): there is a lack of blood supply to the brain which causes the nerve cells to die. Symptoms are varied but some common symptoms are difficulties in planning, thinking quickly or concentrating. Sometimes there is confusion and sometimes depression or anxiety.

Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB): clumps of protein called Lewy bodies develop inside nerve cells. They disrupt the functions of thinking, memory and movement. People with DLB may find it hard to judge distances, see objects in three dimensions, may hallucinate, and may experience Parkinson-like symptoms.

Frontotemporal dementia (FTD): clumps of abnormal proteins collect in the nerve cells of the frontotemporal lobes of the brain. Brain chemicals are also affected. Early changes here depend on which type of FTD the person has. Sometimes a behavior and personality change is seen, and sometimes speech and language is affected. Less than 5% of dementia is FTD dementia and it tends to be hereditary.

For more information, see the Alzheimer Society of Canada at https://alzheimer.ca/en/about-dementia. They help with all types of dementia, not just Alzheimer’s.