In our blog post on Understanding the Stages and Types of Dementia, we’ve talked about the different types and stages of the condition. Now, let’s take a closer look at one particular type of dementia: frontotemporal dementia, as well as its causes, symptoms and treatments.
What is frontotemporal dementia?
Dementia describes a group of symptoms that can include problems with memory, thinking, or language, and changes in mood, emotions, and behavior. It is caused when the brain is damaged by disease. Frontotemporal dementia is a group of disorders that occur when nerve cells in the the front and sides of the brain (the frontal and temporal lobes) are lost. This causes the lobes to shrink. FTD can affect behavior, personality, language, and movement.
Dementia generally affects people over 65, but frontotemporal dementia tends to start at a younger age. Most cases are diagnosed in people aged 45-65 (men and women alike), although it can also affect younger or older people. Like other types of dementia, frontotemporal dementia tends to develop slowly and get gradually worse over several years.
Signs and symptoms of frontotemporal dementia can be different from one individual to the next and get progressively worse over time, usually over years. Common symptoms include:
Personality and behavior changes
- Acting inappropriately or impulsively
- Appearing selfish or unsympathetic, loss of empathy
- Lack of judgment
- Lack of interest (apathy)
- Neglecting personal hygiene
- Changes in eating habits, usually overeating or developing a preference for sweets and carbohydrates
- Repetitive compulsive behavior, such as tapping, clapping or smacking lips
- Speaking slowly, getting words in the wrong order, or using words incorrectly
- Increasing difficulty in using and understanding written and spoken language
- Trouble naming things, possibly replacing a specific word with a more general word such as “it”
- Making mistakes in sentence construction
Problems with movement
- Muscle spasms or twitches
- Poor coordination
- Difficulty swallowing
- Muscle weakness
- Inappropriate laughing or crying
- Falls or walking problems
Problems with mental abilities
- Getting distracted easily
- Struggling with planning and organization
- Hallucinations or delusions
Causes and risk factors
Frontotemporal dementia is caused by clumps of abnormal protein forming inside brain cells. These are thought to damage the cells and stop them working properly. It’s not fully understood why this happens, but there’s often a genetic link.
Around 1 in 8 people who get frontotemporal dementia will have relatives who were also affected by the condition. If you have a family history of frontotemporal dementia, you may want to consider talking to your doctor about being referred to a geneticist and possibly having a genetic test to see if you’re at risk.
Currently, no treatments are available to cure or slow the progression of frontotemporal dementia, but healthcare providers may prescribe medicine to treat symptoms. Antidepressants may help treat anxiety and control obsessive-compulsive behaviors and other symptoms. Prescription sleeping aids can help ease insomnia and other sleep disturbances, while antipsychotic medicine may reduce irrational and compulsive behaviors.
Benefits of in-home dementia care
While many people in the early stages of dementia choose to remain in the comfort of a familiar home, their unique care needs can be a challenge to meet. If you’re taking care of a loved one with dementia, you know that sometimes it can be an overwhelming experience and navigating your own life at the same time can be difficult. This is why working with an in-home caregiver who understands dementia challenges can be hugely beneficial for the whole family.
An in-home caregiver can help with many tasks including creating a daily routine for your loved one, putting a nutritious diet together and helping your loved one regularly have their meals, assisting with minor housekeeping tasks, running errands, and making doctor’s appointments.
In addition, they can also provide companionship for your loved one, while also monitoring their disease’s progress and symptoms. They can also help you better understand the disease and your loved one’s behavior, as well as keep you updated on their wellbeing. While making sure that your loved one with dementia has a better quality of life and that they’re in good hands, an in-home caregiver can also give you a much-needed break to take care of your own needs. For more details on how cooperating with an in-home caregiver can be beneficial, read our article on the Benefits of In-Home Dementia Care.
If you’re interested, you can meet with our care team in your loved one’s home to discuss their specific needs, as well as receive a complementary safety assessment. Schedule an in-home meeting now.