Living with Dementia

Every year thousands of Americans are newly diagnosed with dementia impacting family members, friends, neighbors, colleagues, and the community at large. While a diagnosis of dementia can be life altering, it need not be isolating. Dementia Friendly Dallas is dedicated to fostering inclusive and caring communities for persons living with dementia and their care partners by decreasing stigma through education, promoting meaningful interactions, and offering continued support to meet changing needs.

What is Dementia?

Dementia is a general term that refers to a set of symptoms related to a decline in cognitive abilities severe enough to interfere with daily life. Areas affected might be memory, language, thinking and reasoning, motor skills, sensory response, and behavior management. Although instances of dementia are higher in older adults, it is not a normal part of aging.

Types of Dementia

There are over 100 diseases that may cause dementia. Below are a few of the most common:
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia accounting for 60% – 80% of dementia diagnosis. It is a progressive disease affecting brain tissues and neurons in many areas of the brain ultimately causing a severe decline in language, memory, reasoning, and other cognitive functions.
Vascular dementia also causes changes in cognition but is linked to strokes, multiple minor strokes, or conditions preventing oxygen and blood to flow to the brain. Some risk factors include high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. Symptoms can onset suddenly and typically include forgetfulness, difficulty following instructions or learning new information, poor judgement, and even hallucinations.
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is caused by the progressive nerve cell loss in the frontal lobe or the temporal lobe of the brain. Persons living with FTD may retain much of their memory but often have difficulties with communication, specifically speaking, reading, writing, and comprehension of what others are saying. Other common symptoms include difficulties with planning and sequencing, prioritization of tasks, and impulsivity. FTD is also known to affect one’s mood and behavior and may lead to a disinterest of activities once enjoyed.
Lewy Body dementia (LBD) is a type of dementia caused by abnormal microscopic protein deposits, called Lewy bodies, that damage the ability of neurons in the brain to transmit information between brain cells. LBD is an umbrella term encompassing dementias caused by the build-up of Lewy Body proteins, including “dementia with Lewy Body” (DLB) and Parkinson’s Disease dementia (PDD). It is important to note that not all persons living with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) will develop PDD.
In LBD, two important chemical transmitters are affected by LBD; acetylcholine, chiefly responsible for memory, learning, and processing as well as dopamine which plays a crucial role in behavior, cognition, movement, sleep, and mood. Many persons living with LBD experience fluctuating cognitive functions and can experience hallucinations, disorientation, and disrupted sleep cycles. Other symptoms include potential changes in movement including posture, muscle rigidity, mobility, and facial expressions.
Mixed dementia is the instance of more than one type of dementia (or cause of dementia) simultaneously occurring in the brain. For example, persons living with mixed dementia might have brain changes associated simultaneously with Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. Symptoms of several dementias may be present in persons living with mixed dementia. Mixed dementia can be difficult to diagnose, but can pose a greater impact on brain function since two or more dementia related brain changes are present.