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Alzheimer’s, Vascular, and More: The Diseases that Cause Dementia

by Avila Institute Staff

May 6, 2024

Alzheimer's, Vascular, and More: The Diseases That Cause Dementia

Dementia is a condition that causes a progressive decline in cognitive function and memory, significantly impacting a person's daily life. While it is commonly associated with aging, several diseases can cause dementia-like symptoms, and identifying the underlying cause is crucial for accurate diagnosis and management. Let's explore some of the diseases that can lead to dementia and how they manifest.

Alzheimer’s Disease

The most common cause of dementia, Alzheimer's disease, accounts for about 60% of all cases. It is characterized by the accumulation of plaques (beta-amyloid protein) and tangles (tau protein) in the brain. These abnormalities disrupt the functioning of healthy neurons, leading to memory loss and cognitive decline. Alzheimer's can be categorized as early-onset (before age 65) or late-onset (after age 65). Patients typically live with the disease for 8–10 years from diagnosis.

Vascular Dementia

Vascular dementia occurs when there is damage to the blood vessels supplying the brain, often due to strokes or white matter damage. This type of dementia is marked by challenges in problem-solving, slowed thinking, and difficulty with focus and organization. It tends to have a shorter progression than other dementias, lasting around 5 years.

Lewy Body Dementia

Lewy Body Dementia is caused by abnormal protein clumps, known as Lewy bodies, found in the brains of those with the condition, as well as those with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. Symptoms include visual hallucinations, acting out dreams during sleep, and issues with movement, such as tremors and rigidity. The average lifespan for someone with Lewy Body Dementia is around 6 years.

Frontotemporal Dementia

Frontotemporal dementia is a group of diseases that affect the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain, areas responsible for behavior, personality, and language. This condition leads to significant changes in behavior, personality, thinking, and judgment. Symptoms may also include language and movement difficulties. The average duration of frontotemporal dementia is about 6–8 years.

Mixed Dementia

Mixed dementia refers to a combination of multiple types of dementia, such as Alzheimer's, vascular dementia, and Lewy Body Dementia. Autopsy studies show that mixed dementia is common among people aged 80 and older. Ongoing research seeks to understand how these combinations affect symptoms and treatment options.


Identifying the specific disease-causing dementia is essential for proper treatment and management. Early diagnosis and intervention can improve quality of life and help in planning for the future. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of dementia, consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate care.

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Are you interested in Dementia Care training for your long-term care nursing home facility or for the care of your aging members in religious Community?

As the educational arm for the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm, and working with the concerns of healthcare professionals and staff of their nursing homes, AIG recognized the dire need for dementia care training and developed our first training program in 2004.

Now, close to 20 years later, we are on the 8th edition, as we continuously update with the latest research and effective interventions. We have used this program to train thousands of healthcare professionals throughout the United States and in Ireland.

We are currently offering our Dementia Care Training Program both on-site at your facility and virtually, to learn more click here, or contact us to learn how we can help.

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