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Dementia, How The Disease Progresses

22 December 2019

Dementia, How The Disease Progresses

The progressive disease, dementia, is an umbrella term for a number of symptoms that include difficulty thinking, problem solving and memory loss. Out of the different types of dementia, including vascular and frontotemporal, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common. Unfortunately, all types of dementia are progressive, as the structure of the brain becomes more damaged over time. However, this deterioration can happen at a different speed for every individual with the disease, and every experience of the disease is unique. So, what does dementia progression look like?

The Progression Of Alzheimer’s Disease

This physical disease affects the brain, as the connections between the nerve cells in the brain are lost. This is due to a build-up of protein and abnormal structures called tangles and plaques building up. Over time, the nerve cells die and the tissue in the brain becomes lost. Due to the simple nature of the disease, Alzheimer’s and dementia progression can be a quicker process for some and more gradual for others. The symptoms will increase and develop, as more parts of the brain become damaged.

Alzheimer’s disease could start with you noticing minor changes in the behaviour and ability of the individual. They may forget a recent conversation or event, mislay an item, struggle to find a word in a conversation or become confused with the date or day. Professionals measure these changes to get a better understanding of the progression of the disease and a reflection of someone’s mental ability. It’s important to try and help any individual showcasing the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease to maintain their independence and focus on what they can do as opposed to what they are unable to do. As dementia progression continues, you may also notice that the individual is more irritable, anxious and sometimes even depressed, as they understand that they are beginning to lose their memory and independence.

As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, the individual will require more assistance with their day to day life, as you will notice that they will begin to become more forgetful. This forgetfulness will include names and they could begin to repeat the same sentence or question a number of times. This could mean that the disease has progressed so that the individual will find it difficult to recognise people and may confuse friends and family for other people. Due to the frustration of not being able to remember, those with Alzheimer’s disease may get angry and aggressive, as well as getting easily upset. Therefore, those close to the individual may decide to move them to a care home where they can be properly looked after by a kind and knowledgeable team, who understand how best to help the resident throughout dementia’s progression.

More severe experiences of Alzheimer’s disease will mean that the individual will require complete help from a nurse. The individual won’t be able to recognise those closest to them and even recognise familiar objects. The individual with the disease will become weaker and have difficulty eating, swallowing, begin to lose their speech, incontinence and you could notice considerable weight loss. The individual can become distressed and aggressive as they don’t understand what is happening and are severely confused.

Vascular Dementia Progression

When brain cells are deprived of oxygen and die, this results in vascular dementia. Typically, this occurs when there are tiny blood vessels in the brain or if someone suffers a stroke. Those with subcortical vascular dementia will deteriorate gradually like Alzheimer’s diseases, however if the individual has suffered from a stroke, the vascular dementia progression is likely to be more abrupt.

As vascular dementia progresses, the symptoms become similar to those with Alzheimer’s disease, but with some significant differences. Initial symptoms will include difficulty planning, making decisions, have a slower speed of thought and have problems of concentrating. The individual could also be prone to mood swings, be emotional and are likely to experience anxiety as well as depression. This is because they are aware of the impact the dementia is causing. If the vascular dementia has occurred because of a stroke, the individual will show weakness of limbs and problems with their speech or vision. As the vascular dementia progression continues the symptoms mirror of a more serious case of Alzheimer’s disease, including disorientation, confusion and memory loss.

Frontotemporal Dementia Progression

As the name suggests, frontotemporal dementia is caused as a result of damage to the temporal and frontal lobes in the sides and fronts of the brain. With these areas being responsible for our emotional responses, language skills and behaviour, and thus these are the areas that are impacted the most. To begin with, the individual will struggle to remember recent events, recall the name of objects and find it difficult to understand words. As frontotemporal dementia progression continues, the symptoms become very similar to Alzheimer’s disease, however there are some differences. Those with frontotemporal dementia will experience problem judging distances, see objects in three dimensions and any behavioural symptoms will be displayed earlier.

The Rate Of Dementia Progression

There are a variety of factors that can have an impact on the rate of dementia progression, including the overall health of the individual and their genes. The deterioration of dementia is also accelerated when someone has had multiple strokes. On the other hand, those who keep their mind and body active, eat healthy food and don’t smoke, could help to slow down the progression of dementia.

For those caring for someone with any of the types of dementia, it’s imperative that you understand the symptoms of the specific signs of progression, as it will enable you to care for the individual in the best way. For more information about dementia and the progression, get in touch with our team at Hallmark Care Homes, today.