Senior Resources » Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Resources

Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Resources

hands holding, one pair is aged, the other is younger

Dementia, a broad term for a range of conditions characterized by cognitive impairment, is an increasingly prevalent global health issue, with over 55 million people worldwide currently living with some form of it (WHO). The most common type of dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, accounts for more than 60% of these cases.

Dementia has profound effects on the quality of life of those affected and their caregivers. Patients often require extensive support as they navigate the daily challenges associated with cognitive decline. Similarly, caregivers may experience emotional, physical, and financial strain.

Efforts to better understand dementia, find effective treatments, and provide support to those affected are ongoing globally. Still, with the rapidly aging population, the number of cases is expected to triple by 2050 (WHO).

What is Dementia?

dementia depiction

Dementia is a general term that describes a group of symptoms affecting memory, cognitive abilities, and social abilities significantly enough to interfere with daily functioning. It’s not a specific disease but rather a broad category encompassing multiple conditions that cause these symptoms. The common thread among these conditions is the occurrence of physical changes in the brain that lead to the loss of neurons and the connections between them.

One of the most recognizable symptoms of dementia is memory loss. This often starts with difficulty remembering recent events or new information, while older memories stay intact. As the condition progresses, long-term memory can also be affected. For instance, a person may forget the names of long-time friends or even family members, or fail to recognize familiar places.

However, dementia affects more than just memory. It can also cause deterioration in other cognitive abilities. Logical reasoning and problem-solving skills can decline, making it challenging for those affected to solve problems or make decisions. They might struggle with tasks that require organizing, planning, or abstract thinking. Changes in personality are another common symptom of dementia. A person with dementia may become confused, suspicious, or fearful. They may also show signs of depression, anxiety, or agitation. Their mood may change quickly, and they might become irritable or aggressive. These changes can be distressing both for the person experiencing them and their loved ones.

Those with dementia often have difficulty performing activities of daily life. This could include tasks like cooking, cleaning, taking care of personal hygiene, or managing finances. In the later stages of dementia, the person may need help with basic tasks such as eating or dressing.

It’s important to note that dementia is not a normal part of aging, though the risk does increase with age. Early diagnosis and intervention can help manage the symptoms and improve quality of life.

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

brain puzzle depicting alzheimer's and other forms of dementia

Alzheimer’s Disease, the most common type of dementia, is a progressive and degenerative disease that gradually leads to the shrinkage of various parts of the brain. This neurodegenerative disorder affects memory, thinking skills, and the ability to perform simple tasks. Over time, symptoms can evolve from mild to severe, significantly impacting patients’ lives.

Common symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s Disease are:

  • Memory Loss – This is often one of the earliest signs. Initially, patients may forget recent conversations or events and misplace items more frequently. As the disease progresses, memory loss becomes more severe, affecting long-term memory. Patients may forget personal details, significant life events, or familiar people.
  • Difficulty Performing Familiar Tasks – People with Alzheimer’s may find it challenging to complete daily tasks they once did with ease. This could include cooking a meal, driving to a familiar location, or remembering the rules of a favorite game.
  • Problems with Speech or Writing – Struggles with vocabulary are common. This includes having trouble following or joining a conversation, repeating themselves, or failing to complete sentences.
  • Disorientation – Someone with Alzheimer’s Disease can lose track of dates, seasons, and the passage of time. They may also forget where they are or how they got there.
  • Poor Judgment or Decision-Making – Those affected may exhibit changes in judgment or decision-making. For example, they might use poor judgment when dealing with money or neglect personal hygiene.
  • Mood and Personality Changes – Mood swings, confusion, depression, fear, and anxiety are all common. A person may also become easily upset at home, at work, or in unfamiliar places.
  • Withdrawal from Social Activities – A person with Alzheimer’s may start to withdraw from social activities, hobbies, projects, or sports they once loved, possibly due to the changes they’ve been experiencing.
  • Difficulty Understanding Visual Images and Spatial Relationships – For some people, having vision problems is a sign of Alzheimer’s. They may have difficulty reading, judging distance, or determining color or contrast, which can cause problems with driving.

In the late stages of Alzheimer’s, patients may lose the ability to carry on a conversation, respond to the environment, or perform daily activities without assistance. The progression of these symptoms varies from person to person, highlighting the importance of personalized care and treatment strategies.

Other Common Types Of Dementia

younger woman hugging senior woman with alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia

Though Alzheimer’s disease is the most common, there are several other types of dementia to be aware of.

Vascular Dementia

Vascular dementia is caused by brain damage resulting from decreased blood flow. It’s common in those who have suffered a stroke but can also occur as a result of blood clots or any other condition that damages blood vessels. Some symptoms of vascular dementia include:

  • Confusion and slowed thinking
  • Trouble with balance
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty with organization
  • Memory loss

Huntington’s Disease

Huntington’s disease is a rare genetic condition caused by a defect in one of the 23 chromosomes in the human body. Huntington’s can begin manifestation as early as age 2, but usually between 30 and 50. Symptoms range from issues with movement to cognitive and psychiatric disorders. Some common symptoms of Huntington’s disease are:

  • Involuntary movements
  • Difficulty speaking or swallowing
  • Lack of self-awareness and impulse control
  • Issues with learning and retaining new information
  • Social withdrawal
  • Irritability or other changes in mood

Posterior Cortical Atrophy (PCA)

Posterior Cortical Atrophy (PCA) is a degenerative condition where the outer layer of the brain gradually deteriorates. This can result in visual and spatial difficulties as well as memory issues. Symptoms vary with each person, but some common examples are:

  • Difficulty with reading, spelling, or simple math
  • Having a hard time with depth perception
  • Confusion
  • Changes in normal behaviors and usual personality traits
  • Difficulty distinguishing between objects that are moving or stationary

Lewy Body Dementia

Lewy body dementia is a progressive disease that is defined by protein deposits that develop in nerve cells in the brain. Lewy body dementia affects a person’s thinking and reasoning, and over time, a person’s ability to live independently. Common symptoms are:

  • Poor judgment or unable to concentrate
  • Slowed mobility
  • Trouble with balance and coordination
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Changes in behavior and mood

Mixed Dementia

Mixed dementia is when symptoms present are typical of more than one type of dementia.

Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Care

older senior with dementia with a caregiver

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia, you’re not alone! Here are some care options that can help.

Home Care

Home care includes a wide range of services and supports for seniors and their families. For those taking care of a loved one with dementia, home care can provide personalized care plans, supplemental companionship, and even increased safety measures.

Find home care near me.

Adult Day Care

Adult day care offers professional care, socialization, and enrichment opportunities for seniors and adults with disabilities. For those with memory care needs, adult day services can provide a safe environment for exercise, recreation, and so much more.

Find adult day care near me.

Residential Care

Many assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and other residential facilities offer memory care and respite.

Find assisted living near me.

Find nursing homes near me.

Read More About Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia

Listen to the Alzheimer’s Speaks Podcast

Listen to Other Podcasts About Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Additional Resources

Alzheimer’s Speaks Podcast on Senior Resource

Alzheimer’s Speaks

Alzheimer’s Association

National Institute on Aging

Alzheimer’s Disease International

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