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Frontotemporal Dementia: Types, Stages, Complications, and Care

Jan, 24 2022

Aging Parents

A very common cause of dementia among people over 65 is frontotemporal dementia (FTD). FTD includes damage to the brain's temporal area (i.e., front and side) and causes dementia. This article provides a comprehensive guide into FTD, its symptoms, and tips on caring for FTD patients.

Types

There are mainly two types of frontotemporal dementia:

  • Behavioral variant

This variant may cause:

  • Personality changes
  • Loss of emotional reactions and empathy
  • Changes in dietary habits
  • Apathy
  • Loss of inhibition leading to strange behaviors
  • Difficulty in abstract thinking
  • Problems in planning and executing tasks
  • Incapability to oppose the tendency to touch and pick things up
  • Repeating activities and words for no reason

Later in the disease, the patient can also develop memory problems. Moreover, the aging parents will also be unaware of their unusual behavior, making it difficult for the caregiver to help them.

  • Language variant

This variant can be further divided into semantic aphasia or progressive, non-fluent aphasia. In semantic dementia, the person may experience difficulty recognizing familiar objects and faces and understanding single words. Even though their speech may be pretty fluent, it won’t make sense to the listener. Memory can also deteriorate in this type of disease.

In contrast, in progressive, non-fluent aphasia, the patient will experience difficulty generating speech. They often generate jumbled words and experience difficulty comprehending complex sentences. They also become unable to name objects.

Around 60% of FTD patients have the behavioral variant, and about 40% face the language variant. Sometimes, a person may suffer from both.

Stages

The three stages of FTD are:

  • Early stage: The patients might not have any memory difficulties, and often doctors misdiagnose it as a psychiatric condition.
  • Middle stage: The condition becomes similar to other dementia forms, like Alzheimer’s disease. At this stage, the patients will need more help doing simple daily tasks, such as grooming and dressing.
  • Late stage: Here, the patients have difficulties with both behavior and language, and their memory also starts deteriorating. Some patients in the last stage of FTD may need 24-hour care.

Complications

The most common complications of FTD are:

  • Insomnia
  • Increased risk of falling
  • Breathing problems while sleeping
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Increased sex drive
  • Change in eating habits, e.g., not eating, overeating, or acquiring specific food preferences
  • Changes in balance, posture, stride length, step cycle, and gait, which can increase the risk of falls
  • Clashes with loved ones due to frequent misunderstandings

Causes

The leading cause of FTD seems to be the degeneration of the brain cells in the frontal and temporal lobes caused by damage from proteins gathering in those regions.

Often, it is not clear why a person develops this condition. However, it has been observed to run in families. It’s been observed that about 40% of FTD patients have a family member with the disease as well. Thyroid diseases and head injuries are also significant risk factors.

Symptoms

The symptoms of FTD can vary between individuals and can also depend on the subtype they experience. Typically, this condition can disturb the behavior, language, or both.

Based on the type of FTD they suffer from, some symptoms include:

  • Inappropriate social behaviors
  • Impulsivity
  • Lethargy and boredom
  • Lack of empathy
  • Distractibility
  • Inability to have a good insight into their behavior
  • Hypersexuality
  • Alterations in eating habits
  • Showing blunted emotions or agitation
  • Disinterest in keeping personal hygiene
  • Compulsive behaviors
  • Lack of motivation and reduced energy
  • Language and speech difficulties
  • Changes in gait
  • Stiffness
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Dystonia
  • Rigidity, weakness, and cramping in the muscles
  • Inability to perform specific movements like brushing the hair
  • Tremor and a habit of dropping things

In the later stages, the condition will start to affect memory.

Caring for Elderly Parents with Frontotemporal Dementia

Some tips to improve the quality of life of senior adults through respite care are:

  • Helping them to care for their finances and let them apply for disability payments if needed
  • Preventing any social, physical, or psychological challenges they may face
  • Making required adaptations to decrease the risk of falls
  • Taking them to depression and anxiety counseling, if required
  • Helping them maintain a routine
  • Helping them avoid triggers of overeating, hypersexuality, and other problematic behaviors

See Also: Dementia Home Care, Cost and Financial Assistance for Seniors

At times despite your best intentions, you might not be able to adequately care for your elderly loved one who has FTD. In such situations, it is best to seek professional help to enable you to care for your loved one. Getting in-home care to support a loved one suffering from FTD can help you care for your loved one while enabling them to stay in their home environment.

If you have aging parents suffering from frontotemporal dementia, Newport Home Care can help as we offer in-home caregiving. Schedule an appointment with us today, and we can create a care plan for your loved one based on your requirements.