Multiple Types of Dementia

January 31, 2023

Multiple Types of Dementia 

Dementia is a broad term used to describe symptoms that are commonly attributed to neurodegenerative disorders, memory loss, and disruptions in cognitive function. It isn’t a specific disease itself, but several diseases can cause symptoms associated with dementia. 

There are 3 stages of dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. adds additional sub-stages to those resulting in a total of 7 stages. Understanding the various stages of dementia and how they can affect a person’s daily life is helpful to what can seem like an out-of-control process. These stages include:

1. Early-stage Alzheimer’s

  • Normal Behavior - Changes in the brain associated with dementia can begin to occur before any physical signs and symptoms of that dementia are apparent. 
  • Forgetfulness - While general forgetfulness is no cause for concern, persistent forgetfulness that affects daily life can be a symptom of early dementia.

2. Middle-stage Alzheimer’s

Throughout this stage, changes in behavior will occur. Individuals may experience depression, anxiety, irritability, and repetitive behaviors. As the disease progresses, other changes may occur, including sleep changes, physical and verbal outbursts, and wandering.

  • Mild Decline - Forgetfulness may begin to worsen, and a person may experience more trouble with memory and cognitive decline. This stage can last up to 7 years.
  • Moderate Decline - At this stage, cognitive decline begins to affect the person’s day-to-day life. It may become difficult to carry out essential adult tasks like paying bills. During this stage, it may be more apparent to friends and family that their loved one is experiencing cognitive decline. It is usually recommended that an appropriate clinician conduct a Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE) when these symptoms begin to be observed. This stage usually lasts for about 2 years.
  • Moderately Severe Decline - At this stage, a person may need assistance carrying out activities of daily living (ADL), such as bathing, getting dressed, preparing food, etc.. While the individual may be able to fulfill personal daily needs, they may begin to forget details of their life, such as their address or phone number. This stage usually lasts about a year and a half.

3. Late-stage Alzheimer’s

  • Severe Decline - Once the individual begins the period known as “severe decline,” dementia begins to affect every aspect of a person’s life. They may need help carrying out more activities of daily living, such as getting dressed. At this stage, you may notice changes in behavior and general mood, including aggression and anger. They may also begin to lose the ability to remember familiar faces, friends, and family members. This stage can last about 2 1/2 years.
  • Very Severe Decline - Many people pass away before reaching the final stage of dementia, often due to other health conditions and general decline. In the final stage of dementia, a person may experience loss of speech and will need assistance with daily living, such as feeding, bathing, and getting dressed. This stage of dementia often requires 24/7 care as a matter of safety and usually professional support at some level.

While a person may be able to function in their day-to-day life during the early stages of dementia, as they reach stages 4 or 5, it is often beneficial to seek professional support. Speaking with a qualified professional can help you determine what type of support is best for you and your family and what your insurance (including Long Term Care benefits) will help pay for if anything.

Types of Dementia & Their Symptoms

While Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of a progressive dementia, there are many diseases that can cause cognitive decline and the symptoms associated with dementia. These different diseases and types of dementia may include:

  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease
  • Dementia with Lewy Bodies
  • Frontotemporal Dementia 
  • Huntington’s Disease 
  • Mixed Dementia 
  • Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus 
  • Posterior Cortical Atrophy 
  • Parkinson’s Disease Dementia 
  • Vascular Dementia 
  • Korsakoff Syndrome 
  • Down Syndrome 
  • Alzheimer’s Disease

Generally speaking, diseases that affect cognition, neuroplasticity, and brain abnormalities fall under the umbrella of dementia. The cause of these diseases isn’t always clear. Their onset may result from genetic disorders, general health decline due to aging, continuous exposure to heavy metals or other neurotoxins, an unhealthy diet, or a traumatic brain injury.

Permanent Symptoms

As mentioned, the various stages of dementia affect the severity of symptoms. These symptoms tend to worsen throughout the 7 stages of dementia.

Permanent Cognitive Symptoms:

  • Memory loss 
  • Difficulty communicating 
  • Difficulty with visual and spatial awareness
  • Difficulty problem solving 
  • Difficulty handling simple or complex tasks (depending on the stage of dementia)
  • Difficulty planning and organizing 
  • Difficulty with coordination and motor functions 
  • General confusion and disorientation

Permanent Psychological Symptoms:

  • Personality changes
  • Depression 
  • Anxiety
  • Inappropriate behavior 
  • Paranoia
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations

Scientists and neurological experts continue to study the brain, its neuroplasticity, the potential causes of cognitive decline, and possible treatments for neurodegenerative diseases. While many of these diseases are not curable, health experts suggest that a good quality of life and available treatments may lessen or slow down the effects and symptoms associated with dementia. New medications are being researched and evaluated by the FDA as they are developed. On January 6, 2023, a new drug called lecanemab was given accelerated approval by the FDA for people in early-stage dementia to help slow progression of the symptoms. While the drug appears to show clear positive effects in slowing the progression, it needs to go through many more clinical trials. It, like most drugs, also has contraindications and side effects, so it wouldn’t be appropriate for everyone.

Reversible Conditions Mistaken for Dementia

Noticing cognitive decline or dementia symptoms in a loved one is scary. However, other illnesses can mimic the symptoms of dementia. Oftentimes, an early diagnosis and proper treatment can alleviate and potentially reverse cognitive decline. These reversible conditions may include the following:

  • Alcohol abuse 
  • Cancers and tumors 
  • Delirium 
  • Depression 
  • Side effects from medications or medication interactions
  • Sleeping problems such as sleep apnea
  • Head trauma 
  • Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus or “water in the brain” 
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs) primarily among older adults
  • Hearing and eyesight problems 
  • Vitamin deficiencies 
  • Other bacterial or viral infections

When To See a Doctor

The signs and symptoms may become more apparent to friends and family members during stages 4 and 5 of dementia. As described above,  it is recommended to see a doctor to receive a Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE) as soon as any symptoms of cognitive decline appear. It is essential to receive a proper diagnosis from a medical professional before coming to a conclusion since other reversible conditions, such as medication or infection, may be mistaken for dementia. 

Please reach out with any questions, and have a Happy and Healthy 2023!



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