Dementia is the name for a group of conditions in which a person has problems with cognitive function that interfere with their daily life. This means the person has trouble with judgment, memory loss or the ability to reason.
Types of Dementia
Common types and causes of dementia include the following:
- Alzheimer's disease, (the most common cause of dementia), characterized by a gradual decline in memory and other cognitive functions from the buildup of plaques and tangles in the brain.
- Vascular dementia can occur when parts of the brain do not get enough oxygen, such as after a stroke.
- Lewy body dementia can occur when abnormal proteins known as Lewy bodies form in the brain.
- Parkinson's disease dementia can occur in the late stages of Parkinson's disease.
- Frontotemporal dementia can occur when damage to nerve cells in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain causes those lobes to shrink.
Dementia symptoms can be different depending on the type of dementia you have. Some common early signs of most dementias include the following:
- Getting lost in familiar settings
- Trouble with complex tasks that you did not previously have
- Trouble with language, such as not remembering the correct word for things
Dementia Diagnosis at Rush
If your primary care provider or other clinician suspects you have dementia, you may be referred to Rush for dementia testing.
Dementia Treatment at Rush
Although there is no cure for dementia, you may be able to maintain the cognitive abilities you have or slow decline with treatment. Rush general neurologists, geriatricians or other Rush Dementia Care specialists may suggest some of the following:
- Managing symptoms: Your health care team will focus on helping you manage your symptoms and preserve your quality of life for as long as possible. For example, they may recommend you eat according to the MIND diet to help you better preserve brain function.
- Medications: Your provider may prescribe medication to help with the symptoms of memory loss associated with dementia.
- New Alzheimer’s disease drug: Rush will soon be offering Aduhelm (aducanumab), which received FDA approval in June 2021, for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). A monoclonal antibody delivered via intravenous (IV) infusion, Adhelm is the first disease-modifying therapy for Alzheimer’s disease to be approved in the U.S. Based on clinical data from patients with mild cognitive impairment due to AD and mild AD, Aduhelm has the potential to impact the underlying disease. However, because Aduhelm is not right for every person with Alzheimer’s disease, you must be evaluated by a Rush neurologist to determine if this treatment is right for you. As a global leader in Alzheimer’s disease care and research, our team has the expertise to determine whether you might benefit from this drug or whether another approach is more appropriate.
- Focus on safety: Your health care team may work with you or your caregiver to ensure your home environment is safe. As dementia progresses, people become more at risk for falls, wandering or getting in an accident while driving.
- Emotional support: Dementia specialists at Rush can provide guidance for adjusting to changes and connect you to available resources in your community.
- Support groups: Our downtown Chicago location offers two dementia support groups. One is a monthly support and education group for caregivers of people with dementia. Without Warning is a monthly support group for people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease before age 65 (young onset) and their family members.
- Clinical trials: Dementia specialists at Rush frequently offer clinical trials of potential new treatments for dementias and related issues. Your primary care provider or dementia specialist may recommend you participate in a study for an investigational drug or other therapy as part of your treatment.
Rush Excellence in Dementia
- Diagnosing types of dementia: Our dementia experts are skilled at distinguishing between different types of dementia. Their evaluations are aimed at pinpointing the different domains of memory and seeing where any deficits exist. Our movement disorders team is skilled at identifying Lewy body dementia — a condition that can be frequently misdiagnosed as either Parkinson's or Alzheimer's disease.
- Helping you understand what to expect: Our dementia experts offer guidance on what to expect from the different stages of dementia and changes that may occur. Their goal is help you or your loved one maintain as much quality of life as possible for as long as possible — while keeping you safe.
- Caregiver support: We know that caregivers of people with dementia have many questions, from "How do I maintain my loved one’s independence?" to "How do I know when it's time to make a change?" We take time to answer your questions and offer you resources to help address the changes that dementia brings.
- Leaders in Alzheimer's research: Researchers at the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center are leaders in identifying ways to maintain cognition for longer. Their research led to the MIND diet and identified the importance of having a purpose in life and maintaining a social network as you age, among other findings.
- Lewy body dementia (LBD) research Center of Excellence: Rush is the only center in Illinois to be named a Research Center of Excellence by the Lewy Body Dementia Association. This designation is given to centers that have significantly "advanced LBD diagnosis and treatment."