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Stages of Frontotemporal Dementia

Alzheimer's, Dementia & Memory Care | November 23, 2018

While Alzheimer’s disease is the most common and well-known form of dementia, there are many other types. Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is one other type and it’s a term used to describe a number of disorders that affect the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. Because these areas are associated with personality, behavior, and language, frontotemporal dementia can drastically change the way a person speaks and acts. The progression of FTD is often separated into stages; some in the medical community use a 3-stage model, while others use a 7-stage model. For the purposes of this blog post, we’ll be discussing the 3-stage model which makes a distinction between the early, mid, and late stages of frontotemporal dementia.

Early Stage Frontotemporal Dementia

Unlike Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, memory may be completely unaffected in frontotemporal dementia. While there are several sub-types of FTD, many in the early stage exhibit a behavioral variant that can cause them to appear to be unusually callous, selfish, and uncaring. They may also behave more abruptly than usual, lose their inhibitions, or develop a sudden affinity for sweet foods and overeating. In other variants called semantic dementia and non-fluent aphasia, language is affected first, creating difficulty with recalling names or words, difficulty understanding words, or difficulty speaking coherently.

Mid Stage Frontotemporal Dementia

As FTD symptoms progress, they tend to become more consistent. In many cases, people living the behavioral variant of frontotemporal dementia will also develop symptoms of the language variants in this stage (or vise-versa). Generally, it is difficult for a person to recognize these symptoms on their own; usually the people around them are better able to distinguish the behavioral and language changes that develop in the early and mid stages of FTD.

Late Stage Frontotemporal Dementia

In the late stages of FTD, symptoms become closer to those of Alzheimer’s disease. While behavioral changes and language problems may develop early, memory loss generally does not occur until the late stages. In the late stages of all types of dementia, it can be difficult to discern one type from the others as symptoms become much more consistent. Because early stages of FTD can be difficult to recognize right away, many people living with late stage frontotemporal dementia are misdiagnosed as having Alzheimer’s. After the onset of FTD, the average person lives six to eight years but the disease currently has no cure and will eventually be fatal.

There is no cure for frontotemporal dementia yet, but with proper support and memory care, it can be possible to live a full life with FTD as long as the symptoms are caught early. If you or a loved one are exhibiting any of the early symptoms listed above, it’s important to see a doctor immediately so that treatment can begin right away. Remember that it’s always easier for those around the person living with FTD to recognize the early symptoms, so friends and family are counting on you to look out for them. At American Senior Communities, we’ll continue to support the medical science community in their search for a cure for all forms of dementia but until then, we’re proud to provide memory care services for people affected by these challenging diseases. Visit our Memory Care page to learn more about memory care services at American Senior Communities.

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