Dementia is a progressive brain disease that is projected to affect at least 13.5 million Americans. Dementia is not a single disease. It is an umbrella term for loss of at least two brain functions that impairs thinking, personality, memory, and behavior. Dementia is progressive and irreversible, although the rate of progression can be slowed down if identified correctly and treated appropriately.

Dementia is not limited to the older adult. It also affects the younger adult population.  The symptoms of dementia are different depending on the type of dementia and stage of the disease.  There are over 100 diseases that may cause dementia. The most common types of dementia include Vascular (VaD), Lewy Body(LBD), Frontotemporal(FTD), Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), Mixed Dementia(MD), Parkinson’s Disease Dementia(PDD), Wernicke-Korsakoff’s Syndrome, Huntington’s Disease and Huntington’s Chorea.

Understanding the various types of dementia can help the care partner obtain the right support to help their loved one live better during their journey.

Dementia is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S. Every 68 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s disease or other related dementias, which affects more than 11 million Americans today. Alzheimer’s disease is more common in older adults.  It is not a normal consequence of aging. Other dementias may be caused by neurological diseases due to their effects on brain tissue.

7 out of 10 people living with dementia live at home where family and friends provide 78% of the care.

Dementia is characterized by a decline in combination of two or more of the following areas:1

  1. Attention
  2. Learning and memory
  3. Reasoning and Executive Functioning
  4. Perceptual Abilities
  5. Language
  6. Social Cognition and Behavior
  7. Communication
  8. Feeding and Swallowing
These functions eventually become impaired enough to interfere with daily life, the ability to be safe and function independently.  As dementia progresses, the person living with dementia becomes more dependent with care.  When a person develops dementia, loved ones are also affected. Family members become care partners, caring for their spouse, parents, or other loved ones.  Becoming a good caregiver, whether you are a family member or healthcare professional, is a process that happens over time. Just as the person living with dementia progresses through stages, the job of caregiving is challenging and must change to meet the different emotional and physical needs of the person living with dementia. Family and other care partners must find new and effective ways to connect with the person who lives with dementia, while creating a positive and caring environment.