Dementia is a symptom not a diagnosis. With that said, I’ll remind you that Alzheimer’s is dementia but dementia is not always Alzheimer’s. When giving my talks throughout New England, I’m often asked by an attendee if they can expect to develop dementia because one of their relatives was diagnosed. I’m afraid I don’t have that answer but I can say that the type of dementia they have could be an indicator.
If the dementia was caused by head trauma or the abuse of alcohol and they never had such life experiences then I would confidently share that they didn’t have much to worry about. There’s another form of dementia, Frontotemporal dementia (FTD), that was recently featured on a segment of “60 Minutes,” that could develop if you do have a history of dementia in your family and that’s my focus today.
According to the folks at The Mayo Clinic, FTD affects the lobes of the brain that affect personality, behavior and language. Specifically, these parts or lobes of the brain atrophy or shrink. The result is individuals that may display changes in personality, become socially inappropriate, emotionally indifferent and maybe lose the ability to use language. Personally, I think one of the most unfortunate characteristics of FTD is that it can occur in individuals as young as 40.
No one individual with dementia is going display all signs and symptoms of that particular type of dementia. Here are some of the most common symptoms for FTD.
-Loss of empathy and other interpersonal skills
-Lack of judgment and inhibition
-Repetitive compulsive behavior
-A decline in personal hygiene
-Consumption of inedible objects
I recommend you review this list a few times and give it some serious thought. Consider the consequences of your loved ones compromised hygiene or the dangers of them ingesting things they shouldn’t including access to medications.
It’s important that you also know that in rarer types of FTD problems with movement are presented. For example, they may display tremors, rigidity, muscle spasms, poor coordination, difficulty swallowing and muscle weakness. According to those at The Mayo Clinic, these movement disorders are similar to those with Parkinson’s disease or ALS.
At this point in time, it’s not known what causes the affected lobes of the brain to shrink and more than half of the individuals that develop FTD have no family history of dementia.
I’m not a diagnostician nor do I expect you to be one. I do believe the better informed you are the more informed and better understanding caregiver you can and should be. When you start to notice symptoms or behaviors don’t be hesitant to take the initiative and see the appropriate Physician(s). Be proactive and once you learn what the issues are, become a student of that affliction and of the resources that are available to help you navigate as a caregiver. As most know, the information that’s available out there on almost everything is staggering. From a wide variety of active dementia related studies, on-line courses, reference websites like ALZ.org & MayoClinic.org, local Support Groups and more. They are all there to help you and your loved one. “Dr. Goggle” can be a big help but you don’t want to depend on her too much.
Questions? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember, Join the Journey.