What to Do if You, Your Loved One, or Your Client Is Diagnosed with Dementia

What to Do if You, Your Loved One, or Your Client Is Diagnosed with Dementia

Arizona State Bar

June 6, 2018

What is dementia?

Dementia is a brain disease that causes a progressive decline in cognition from a prior level of functioning. For a dementia diagnosis, the person will exhibit decline in two or more of the following areas: memory, reasoning, language, visual perception processes, executive functions, social/interpersonal behaviors, personality. https://www.alz.org/what-is-dementia.asp.

The five most common types of dementia are:

  • Alzheimer’s disease: The hallmark abnormalities of Alzheimer’s are deposits of plaques and tangles as well as nerve cell damage and death in the brain. https://www.alz.org/dementia/types-of-dementia.asp. “Difficulty remembering recent conversations, names or events is often an early clinical symptom; apathy and depression are also often early symptoms. Later symptoms include impaired communication, poor judgment, disorientation, confusion, behavior changes and difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking.” https://www.alz.org/dementia/types-of-dementia.asp.
  • Dementia with Lewy bodies: Dementia with Lewy bodies is caused by abnormal aggregations of protein in the cortex of the brain. “People with dementia with Lewy bodies often have memory loss and thinking problems common in Alzheimer’s, but are more likely than people with Alzheimer’s to have initial or early symptoms such as sleep disturbances, well-formed visual hallucinations, and slowness, gait imbalance or other parkinsonian movement features.” https://www.alz.org/dementia/types-of-dementia.asp.
  • Parkinson’s disease: Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by a loss of dopamine-producing neurons in a specific area of the brain stem called the substantia negra. http://parkinson.org/Understanding-Parkinsons/Causes-and-Statistics. Parkinson’s is marked by at-rest tremors, slowness of movement, gait and balance problems, and limb rigidity. http://parkinson.org/understanding-parkinsons/what-is-parkinsons. “As Parkinson’s disease progresses, it often results in a progressive dementia similar to dementia with Lewy bodies or Alzheimer’s.” https://www.alz.org/dementia/types-of-dementia.asp.
  • Vascular dementia: Caused by blocked blood vessels, vascular dementia was previously known as multi-infarct or post-stroke dementia, vascular dementia is less common as a sole cause of dementia than Alzheimer’s, accounting for about 10 percent of dementia cases. https://www.alz.org/dementia/types-of-dementia.asp.
  • Frontotemporal dementia: A progressive degeneration of the temporal and frontal lobes of the brain, areas that “play a significant role in decision-making, behavioral control, emotion and language,” https://memory.ucsf.edu/frontotemporal-dementia, frontotemporal dementia includes types of dementia such as behavioral-variant frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD), primary progressive aphasia, Pick’s disease, corticobasal degeneration and progressive supranuclear palsy. https://www.alz.org/dementia/types-of-dementia.asp.

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