Understanding Dementia

What is Dementia?

Dementia is not a specific disease, but rather a term that is used to describe symptoms of memory loss — an “umbrella term” for the category of memory loss neurological disorders. There are many, but here are the 5 most common types of dementia:

  1. Alzheimer’s Disease – With Alzheimer’s there is usually a gradual decline in abilities that can span seven to ten years. However, the Alzheimer’s Association believes that you probably have the disease up to 20 years prior to being diagnosed.
  2. Vascular Dementia – This is caused from brain damage from cardiovascular problems such as a stroke or heart attack. With Vascular Dementia, as the disease progresses you will usually see sudden changes in their abilities.
  3. Lewy Body Dementia – In this form of dementia the cells die in the brain’s outer layer, and in parts of the mid-brain. The remaining nerve cells contain abnormal structures called Lewy Bodies. They usually contain a protein that has been linked to Parkinson’s Disease.
  4. Parkinson’s Disease – Not all people with Parkinson Disease will develop dementia, but if they do it is a Lewy Body dementia.
  5. Frontotemporal Dementia – This is caused by the degeneration of nerve cells in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. It does not include the formation of plaque found in Alzheimer’s Disease. This form of Dementia generally starts between the ages of 40-65, and in most cases there is a family history suggesting a strong genetic factor in the disease.


*HOPE Dementia Support is not affiliated with the Alzheimer’s Association

What Causes Dementia?

Untreatable causes of dementia include:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Multi-infarct dementia (Vascular)
  • Dementias associated with Parkinson’s disease and similar disorders
  • AIDS dementia complex
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), a quickly progressing and fatal disease that is characterized by dementia and myoclonus—muscle twitching and spasm
  • Dementia with Lewy Bodies
  • Picks disease


Read about the warning signs of dementia and read more on our Resources page.

My loved one is starting to become forgetful. Could they have dementia?

See the comparisons of symptoms for each memory stage, separated by |

Normal Forgetfulness | Mild Cognitive Impairment | Dementia

Sometimes misplaces keys / eyeglasses / other items, but can retrace steps to find them. | Frequently misplaces items. | Puts items in inappropriate places. Forgets what an item is used for.

Momentarily forgets and acquaintance’s name, but will eventually recall their name. | Frequently forgets people’s names and or is slow to recall their names. | May not remember or recognize a person.

Occasionally forget to run errands. | Begins to forget appointments and important events or occasions. Loses sense of time. | No longer knows the date, year, or season.

Occasionally has to search for a word to use in a sentence. | Has difficulty using the right words. | Begins to lose language skills.  May withdraw from social situations

May forget an event from the past. May not be able to retain new information. Forgets recent events. | Short term memory is seriously impaired. | Has lost the ability to retain any new information or learn anything new

When driving may forget where to turn, but quickly orients self. | May become lost more often. May have difficulty understanding and following a map or directions. | Is easily disoriented or lost in familiar places, such as in their own home.

Jokes about memory loss as being a senior moment. Worries about memory loss. | Family and friends notice the lapses. |Has little or no awareness of cognitive problems