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Our Mind Matters: Frontotemporal Dementia

A monthly article brought to you by Senior Services Memory Support Programs

Over the last few months, we have learned a lot about dementia and some of the most common types. The type of dementia we are going to focus on in this article is called Frontotemporal dementia or FTD. Let’s take a closer look at some of the distinguishing characteristics and common misconceptions.

Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) refers to protein build-up in two areas of the brain: the frontal lobes and the temporal lobes. The frontal lobes are located in the areas just above your eyes. Damage to this part of the brain affects the abilities to reason and make decisions, prioritize and multi-task, act appropriately and control movement. The temporal lobes are located in the areas close to your ears. Damage to this part of the brain affects the abilities to hear and understand what is heard. When the outer layers of the brain are damaged, it causes the healthy cells to shrink.
This type of dementia affects behavior, language and/or body movements. These cluster symptoms tend to occur together, and people may have more than one of the symptom types.

Symptoms may include:

  • Acting inappropriately in public such as eating off of another person’s plate at dinner
  • Impulsivity; such as blurting out comments or questions
  • Making sudden, poor decisions
  • Changing from being active and outgoing to quiet and withdrawn
  • Acting without caring how it affects others/Acting out without caring of others
  • Unable to initiate an activity/task on their own
  • Difficulty making sense/articulating when speaking
  • Difficulty understanding what others are saying/Increased confusion when conversing with others
  • Difficulty reading

FTD is often misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease. Doctors are able to look at which lobes have been affected first and can use an MRI to help rule out other diseases. So, what are the key differences between FTD and Alzheimer’s?

  • Age at diagnosis may be an important clue. Most people with FTD are diagnosed in their 40s to early 60s. Alzheimer’s, on the other hand, effects mostly people around 65 years and older and grows more common with increasing age.Memory loss tends to be a more prominent symptom in early Alzheimer’s, than in early FTD.
  • Behavior changes are often the first noticeable symptoms in FTD. These behavior changes are also common as Alzheimer’s progresses, but they tend to occur later in the disease.
  • Problems with spatial orientation — for example, getting lost in familiar places — are more common in Alzheimer’s than in FTD.
  • Problems with speech: People suffering from FTD do not experience the same speech problems as those with Alzheimer’s. Persons diagnosed with Alzheimer’s may have trouble thinking of the right word and remembering names but tend to have less difficulty making sense when they speak, understanding the speech of others, or reading when compared to people with FTD.
  • Hallucinations and delusions are relatively common as Alzheimer’s progresses, but relatively uncommon in FTD.

When you start to notice memory changes, seeking early detection is key. Senior Services offers an array of memory support programs including confidential memory screenings to obtain a cognitive baseline, early memory loss programs, and educational classes along with support from Seasons Adult Day Health Services. If you or someone you know is experiencing increasing changes with their memory and could benefit from additional services, please contact Amy Sheridan, Family Support and Activity Manager at 989-633-3764.

Check out our section, Our Mind Matters, next month as we will discover more about Holiday Traditions and Gatherings.


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