Dementia is a term most people have heard of but may not be familiar with the many types. So when your loved one is experiencing cognitive problems, how can you tell the difference between Alzheimer’s disease and Lewy body dementia?
Knowing the type of dementia is crucial for medical professionals helping someone with memory loss. It can also play a part in caregiving services. Memory support facilities provide personalized programs to give the best possible care for any type—including mixed dementia.
What Is Dementia?
Dementia is a general term used to describe a group of symptoms related to the loss of cognitive function. Although dementia is more common in older adults, it is not a natural part of aging. Notably, about one-third of adults 85 or older have some form of dementia.
Dementia occurs when the brain’s neurons (nerve cells) stop working or deteriorate. As a result, the cells lose connections or the ability to repair themselves. Some cell loss is normal when aging, but people with dementia experience a more significant loss.
According to the National Institute on Aging, the 5 most common forms of dementia include:
Signs and symptoms of dementia can vary, especially when considering the cause or type of dementia. Commonly, dementia affects behavior, movement, memory, and thinking.
What Is Mixed Dementia?
It’s common for people with dementia to have more than one type, known as mixed dementia. However, most people with mixed dementia are diagnosed with a single form, as many signs and symptoms can be shared among types. As a result, patients with mixed dementia are typically treated for one type.
Many researchers believe mixed dementia deserves more attention, as the combination of 2 or more dementia types can impact symptoms. Additionally, evidence suggests having more than one type increases the risk of developing symptoms.
Notably, the most common types of mixed dementia are:
- Alzheimer’s disease & vascular dementia
- Alzheimer’s disease & Lewy body disease
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common. Over 50 million people worldwide have dementia, but 60–70% of those have Alzheimer’s. Age is the most significant risk factor, as most people with Alzheimer’s are over 65. However, when the disease affects adults under 65, it is known as younger-onset or early-onset Alzheimer’s.
Bain changes caused by Alzheimer’s typically affect areas that involve learning. Abnormal structures in the brain block communication among nerve cells, disrupting crucial processes. As the disease advances, symptoms become increasingly severe.
Vascular dementia is a decline in thinking skills caused by blocked or reduced blood flow to the brain. Inadequate blood supply deprives brain regions of oxygen and nutrients.
Changes can occur suddenly, such as after a significant stroke, or slowly develop if caused by multiple minor strokes or health conditions affecting blood vessels. Notably, some experts prefer the term vascular cognitive impairment (VCI) to more effectively describe the range of symptoms, from mild to severe.
Lewy Body Dementia
Lewy body dementia (LBD) is associated with abnormal protein deposits (Lewy bodies) in the brain. The Lewy bodies affect chemicals in the brain. As a result, the brain experiences changes, leading to behavior, movement, thinking, and mood problems.
LBD affects more than 1 million people in the US, typically those over 50. It is a progressive disease. Symptoms usually begin mild and worsen over time. What causes the disease is unknown, but some health conditions and diseases are known risk factors, such as Parkinson’s disease and REM sleep behavior disorder.
Treatments for Mixed Dementia
Currently, there is no cure for dementia, including mixed dementia. However, medical researchers continue to update medications, therapies, and treatments to improve or maintain cognitive function.
Cholinesterase inhibitors are the most common medication used to treat symptoms of mixed dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease and Lewy body dementia. The inhibitors help improve communication between brain cells.
Unfortunately, there isn’t medication available to improve vascular dementia symptoms. Instead, an individual’s medical provider may prescribe medication to prevent strokes or problems affecting blood flow, such as treatment for high blood pressure or diabetes.
A primary care provider may recommend many types of therapy to support health and improve quality of life. Additionally, seniors living in memory care communities will access various group and individual therapy experiences.
Some therapies available for dementia include:
- Behavioral therapy
- Cognitive stimulation therapy
- Cognitive rehabilitation
- Reminiscence therapy
Additionally, a person experiencing physical symptoms, such as seniors with Lewy body disease, may be offered physiotherapy. Memory care commonly provides activities and exercises to improve balance and movement problems.
Support for Dementia
Mixed dementia is common, but your loved one deserves one-of-a-kind care. At Fox Trail in Park Ridge, we’re committed to bringing joy to all our residents, no matter their needs. Our environment is designed to promote comfort, ease, and cognitive support. With engaging, meaningful experiences, seniors can feel valued and safe.
Contact us today or schedule a visit to learn more about our memory support or respite care. Our compassionate staff is dedicated to providing residents exceptional quality and care for however long you choose to join our community.