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How Dementia Affects the Brain

Published date: 06/03/2023 08:52

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When a person begins exhibiting signs of dementia, it can be a very stressful and emotional time for their family and friends. Dementia is a common disease that approximately 944,000 people in UK are living with, the majority of whom are being cared for at home. 1 in 3 people will develop a form of dementia in their life time. Understanding more about the illness can help you, your family, and your loved one living with dementia, cope with its symptoms.

The Different Types of Dementia

Dementia is a wide term used to describe the many different symptoms which are associated with cognitive impairment. Each form of dementia presents varying symptoms, and these will affect each person living with the disease differently. The type of dementia can depend on which part of the brain is affected. There are many types of dementia, but the most common types are:

  • Alzheimer’s Disease

    Alzheimer's disease typically destroys neurons, and their connections to parts of the brain involved in memory. It later affects areas in the cerebral cortex responsible for language, reasoning, and social behaviour. Early symptoms include predominately episodic memory difficulties, problems with orientation, and an inability to find the right words.

  • Vascular Dementia

    Atherosclerosis is a primary cause of vascular dementia. This occurs when high cholesterol levels, together with inflammation in the arteries of the brain, cause cholesterol to build up as a thick, waxy plaque that can narrow or block blood flow in the arteries. Early symptoms are memory difficulties and the inability to carry out simple tasks like washing, dressing and planning, safely.

  • Lewy Body Dementia

    In the same category as Parkinson’s Disease, Lewy Body Dementia is the second most common type of progressive dementia after Alzheimer's disease. Protein deposits, called Lewy bodies, develop in the nerve cells inside the parts of the brain that control thinking, memory, and movement. Early symptoms include executive difficulties, loss in awareness of environment, and hallucinations of animals and children.

  • Frontal Lobe Dementia

    Frontotemporal dementia is an umbrella term for a group of brain disorders that primarily affect the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain, these lobes are generally associated with personality, behaviour and language. In frontotemporal dementia, portions of these lobes shrink. Early symptoms, depending on which side of the brain is affected, include an inability to understand words (left side), and inability to control behaviour and regulate emotion (right side).

    What Areas of The Brain are Affected by Dementia?

    Understanding how dementia affects the brain can help explain our loved one’s behaviour. When a person has dementia, it will be affecting a certain part of their brain. Shrinkage and plaque can occur in one or more of these four key areas, and this impacts how the neurons transport and translate signals to nerve endings. The misfiring of that information is what alters memory, speech, and behaviour.

    The four lobes of the cortex that can be affected by dementia are:

  • Frontal Lobe (thinking, memory, behaviour and movement)
  • Parietal Lobe (language and touch)
  • Temporal Love (hearing, learning and feelings)

Though some of these, such as memory and hearing, can be naturally affected by normal ageing as the speed of processing gradually slows, this is drastically exacerbated by dementia. When dementia is altering these areas of the brain, a person’s ability to plan, sequence, make decisions, and problem solve (executive functioning) is halted.

You may find your loved one sat on their bed, half dressed, or notice a general inability to recognise objects or judge their position. A change in perception is very common, so it is important to make sure all objects are placed directly in front of the person to reduce confusion, and make sure they have clear paths to walk on to avoid accidents.

B&M Quality Assured Care

At B&M Care, we are experts in dementia and providing care to those who live with it. We have created a golden standard for the best practice in dementia care, which we call our Rose Model. This framework ensures that we always provide person centred care that focuses on that person’s remaining abilities. All of our dedicated staff are trained using this philosophy, and all of our homes are designed to meet then needs of people living with dementia in comfort and tranquillity. If you would like to know more, you can attend one of our ‘Living Well With Dementia’ Discovery Events, which are free and open to the public. 

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