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What is Dementia?

Dementia refers to the gradual loss of mental function that ultimately impairs a person’s ability to function. The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, but there are many other types of dementia to be aware of, including:

  • Vascular dementia

  • Mixed dementia

  • Lewy body dementia (LBD)

  • Parkinson’s disease dementia

  • Frontotemporal dementia (FTD)

  • Creutzfeldt-Jacob dementia

  • Normal pressure hydrocephalus

  • Huntington’s disease

  • Wernicke-Korsakoff dementia

  • Mild cognitive impairment (MCI)

Alzheimer’s disease accounts for anywhere between 60% to 80% of all cases of dementia diagnosis at any given time1. The second most common type of dementia is vascular dementia, which occurs following a stroke. Millions of Americans suffer from some form of dementia. In the most general terms, dementia is caused by brain cell damage. However, the specific cause can vary depending on the type of dementia a person has. For instance, Alzheimer’s is often caused by a combination of lifestyle habits, environmental conditions, and genetics. Vascular dementia, on the other hand, occurs after a stroke when blood flow to the brain is blocked.

Alzheimer’s vs. Dementia

Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are very often confused for each other, and some people believe them to be the same thing. However, even though Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia, it has some very distinct characteristics that set it apart, such as the impact on a person’s memory and the gradual progression of the disease (typically over the course of 10 years).


Generally, dementia progresses in five stages, although certain types of dementia (such as Alzheimer’s disease) may have its own set of progression stages. The five broad stages of dementia include:

  • Stage 1: no-impairment

  • Stage 2: possible/questionable impairment

  • Stage 3: mild impairment

  • Stage 4: moderate impairment

  • Stage 5: severe impairment


Depending on the specific type of dementia that’s diagnosed, it’s possible that the progression of dementia can be stopped (although generally not reversed). Unfortunately, more severe types of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s, typically cannot be stopped but, with the right treatment, may be slowed down.


If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with dementia, you’re probably wondering “what do I do next?” Well, the first step is to find the right level of care to meet your needs (or your loved one’s needs), whether that means finding a dedicated memory care facility or in-home care.


Depending on the type of dementia and underlying cause, there are many treatment options available, including both prescription medications and occupational therapy. Regardless of the treatment being utilized, however, having the person live in a setting/environment conducive to treatment and memory preservation is key to long-term success.

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