The NCPC publishes periodic articles under the title "Planning for Eldercare". Each article is written to help families recognize the need for long term care planning and to help implement that planning. All elderly people, regardless of current health, should have a long term care plan. Learn More...
From its inception, the goal of the National Care Planning Council has been to educate the public on the importance of planning for long term care. With that goal in mind, we have created the largest and most comprehensive source of long term care planning material available anywhere. This material -- "Guide to Long Term Care Planning" -- is free to the public for downloading and printing on all of our web sites. Learn More...
Medical experts stress the fact that there is no physiological reason for an aging senior to develop dementia through the aging process. It is a misconception that aging automatically brings on dementia. It does not have to be so. Dementia is a disease process that eventually, sometime in the future, will be brought under control through treatment. Currently, there is little effective treatment available for dementia. All efforts at the current time need to concentrate on strategies to prevent incurring dementia.
"Dementia" is a general term describing a variety of diseases and conditions that affect the brain and that result in improper brain function. Alzheimer's disease is by far the most common form of dementia. Alzheimer's is characterized by a gradually decreasing ability for a person to function normally. Alzheimer's primarily affects cognitive ability and only in later stages affects motor abilities. As the disease progresses, patients eventually become bedbound and reliant on 24-hour care. At this point, the aging process accelerates rapidly, and the patient usually dies of some infection - often due to pneumonia. The typical Alzheimer's patient lives an average of eight years after symptoms are diagnosed but some individuals can go as long as 20 years with Alzheimer's. Currently, there is no cure.
The most common early symptom of Alzheimer's is difficulty remembering newly learned information because Alzheimer's changes typically begin in the part of the brain that affects learning. As Alzheimer's advances through the brain, it leads to increasingly severe symptoms, including disorientation, mood and behavior changes; deepening confusion about events, time and place; unfounded suspicions about family, friends and professional caregivers; more serious memory loss and behavior changes; and difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking.
In the final stage of this disease, individuals lose the ability to respond to their environment, to carry on a conversation and, eventually, to control movement. They may still say words or phrases, but that communication usually has no cognitive meaning. At this stage, individuals need help with much of their daily personal care, including eating or using the toilet. They may also lose the ability to smile, to sit without support and to hold their heads up. Reflexes become abnormal. Muscles grow rigid. Swallowing impaired.
Here is a description of how dementia is classified and a list of most types of dementia.
Mild Cognitive Impairment
It is estimated that 10% to 20% of all individuals over age 65 exhibit mild cognitive impairment. Mild cognitive impairment is not considered dementia as it is not serious enough to interfere with daily life or independent function. The cause is not completely understood but it could be early-stage Alzheimer's or early stages of other dementias.
This is a condition where more than one type of dementia listed below is present. Mixed dementia may or may not incorporate Alzheimer's disease, since an autopsy is necessary to positively identify Alzheimer's. A common form of mixed dementia might include Alzheimer's and a concurrent dementia with Lewy Bodies.
This is the most common type of dementia and accounts for 60% to 80% of all dementia cases. Alzheimer's is characterized by amyloid protein deposits in the brain tissue which either cause or are the result of the death of brain cells. Currently it can only be positively diagnosed after death through autopsy. Alzheimer's is a progressive disease and eventually results in death.
Vascular dementia is caused by reduced or blocked blood flow to brain cells. This results in lack of vital oxygen and nutrients and eventually results in dead brain cells. This type of dementia is considered the second most common cause of dementia and it is estimated it is responsible for about 20% to 30% of all cases. Mild vascular dementia may remain undiagnosed as it may not result in significant enough disability to warrant treatment. Vascular dementia may also occur as a result of a stroke, or a result of multiple tiny strokes called TIAs (transient ischemic attacks).
Dementia with Lewy Bodies
This is the third most common type of dementia, and it is estimated it may occur in about 10% to 25% of all dementia cases. It is caused by microscopic deposits of Alpha-synuclein protein that eventually kill brain cells. This type of dementia is generally more profound and more disabling from the outset than is Alzheimer's.
This is a group of disorders that are caused by progressive cell degeneration in the frontal lobes of the brain. It is believed that it accounts for 10% to 15% of all dementia cases. For individuals younger than age 65 it may account for 20% to 50% of all dementia cases. This type of dementia is usually developed earlier in life as compared with the other types of dementia. Since the frontal lobe of the brain is responsible for personality and behavior, this dementia will primarily affect behavior, personality, language skills or the ability to speak. This dementia may also result in tremor, balance problems, stiffness and other movement coordination.
Parkinson's Disease Dementia
Parkinson's disease is a fairly common disorder with older adults and may affect up to 2% of seniors 65 and older. Approximately 1 million people have Parkinson's. It is estimated that 50% to 80% of those with Parkinson's disease eventually develop Parkinson's disease dementia. Even though Parkinson's is primarily a movement disorder, it is characterized by a brain that does not work properly and as such a Parkinson's brain can induce other disabilities. As the disease progresses, the same protein deposits that are found in Lewy Body dementia also develop in someone with Parkinson's. Thus, Parkinson's often leads to a form of Lewy Body dementia.
Below are listed other less common dementias that are typically caused by other physical conditions, diseases or injuries.
Here are some facts taken from the Alzheimer's Association website.
Some Alarming Facts
Impact on Caregivers
Cost to the Nation