There is nothing more depressing than watching a loved one diminish right before your eyes.
Over time a person starts to lose touch with the environment around them. The effect is slow and painful for those to see a loved one lose the clarity and joyfulness that they bring to all those around them.
The dictionary definition of dementia is;
“a chronic or persistent disorder of the mental processes caused by brain disease or injury and marked by memory disorders, personality changes, and impaired reasoning”
To see someone who was intelligent turn into someone lost is confusing and causes us to look at ourselves to understand if this could happen to us.
There are actually several types of dementia and these are;
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Vascular Dementia
- Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB)
- Parkinson’s Disease Dementia
- Mixed Dementia
- Frontotemporal Disease
- Huntingdon’s Disease
- Creutzfeldt – Jakob Disease
- Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus
- Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome
This is the most common type of dementia, and it affects about 5 million Americans.
If someone you know has Alzheimer’s you’ll notice symptoms such as memory loss and trouble planning and doing familiar tasks.
The symptoms are mild at first but get worse over a number of years. Your friend or relative might:
- Be confused about where he is or what day or year it is
- Have problems speaking or writing
- Lose things and be unable to backtrack to find them
- Show poor judgment
- Have mood and personality changes
This type of dementia is most often caused by a major stroke, or one or more “silent” strokes, which can happen without actually realizing it.
The type of dementia symptoms depend on the part of the brain affected by the stroke.
While Alzheimer’s usually begins with memory problems, vascular dementia starts with poor judgment or trouble in planning, organizing, and making decisions.
Other symptoms may include:
- Memory problems that disrupt your loved one’s daily life
- Trouble speaking or understanding speech
- Problems recognizing sights and sounds that used to be familiar
- Being confused or agitated
- Changes in personality and mood
- Problems walking and having frequent falls
Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB)
Lewy bodies are microscopic deposits of a protein that form in some people’s brains. They’re named after the scientist who discovered them.
If someone you know gets dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), it’s because these deposits have formed in the part of the brain called the cortex.
The symptoms of DLB include:
- Problems thinking clearly, making decisions, or paying attention
- Memory trouble
- Seeing things that aren’t there, known as visual hallucinations
- Unusual sleepiness during the day
- Periods of “blanking out” or staring
- Problems with movement, including trembling, slowness, and trouble walking
- Dreams where you act out physically, including, talking, walking, and kicking
- muscles and trouble walking.
Parkinson’s Disease Dementia
This type of dementia eventually develops in about 50% to 80% of people with Parkinson’s disease, a disorder of the nervous system.
Parkinson’s disease dementia is very similar to DLB. They have the same symptoms, and people with both conditions have signs of Lewy bodies in their brains.
On average, the symptoms of dementia develop about 10 years after a person first gets Parkinson’s disease.
This is a combination of two types of dementia. The most common combination is Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.
Both symptoms and treatment depend on the parts of the brain involved and the types of dementia present.
Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD)
If your loved one has an FTD, he’s developed cell damage in areas of the brain that control planning and judgment, emotions, speech, and some types of movement.
The symptoms might include:
- Personality and behavior changes
- Sudden lack of inhibitions in personal and social situations
- Problems coming up with the right words for things when speaking
- Movement problems, such as shakiness, balance problems, and muscle spasms
This is a brain disorder caused by a genetic defect that’s passed through family members. While your loved one might have the gene for Huntington’s disease at birth, the symptoms will usually not start to show up until he’s between ages 30 and 50.
People with Huntington’s get some of the same symptoms seen in other forms of dementia, including problems with:
- Thinking and reasoning
- Planning and organizing
This is a rare condition in which proteins called prions cause normal proteins in the brain to start folding into abnormal shapes. The damage leads to dementia symptoms that happen suddenly and quickly get worse.
The symptoms include:
- Memory and concentration problems
- Poor judgment
- Mood swings
- Sleep problems
- Your loved one might also have twitching or jerky muscles and trouble walking.
Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus
This type of dementia is caused by a buildup of fluid in the brain. The symptoms include problems walking, trouble thinking and concentrating, and personality and behavior changes.
Some symptoms can be treated by draining the extra fluid from the brain into the abdomen through a long, thin tube, called a shunt.
This disorder is caused by a severe shortage of thiamine (vitamin B-1) in the body. It most commonly happens in people who are long-term heavy drinkers.
The dementia symptom that’s most common with this condition is a problem with memory. Usually a person’s problem-solving and thinking skills aren’t affected.
All this being said it does not describe the emotional effect on family and friends who must endure the diminishing aspect of loved ones. Seeing the person disappear before your eyes is so sad. Having them look at you and not know that you are there or who you are. It drives a hole into your heart.
Then when the unwanted day comes when they leave this world we quietly say to ourselves that this is the best for our loved one when in fact we would most dearly love to have that person next to us as they were.
Let us hope and pray a solution can be found to remedy this dreadful disease and leave us with the people we love intact. Let the course of life dictate when we leave not a notorious and nasty disease.