Changes in your loved one’s language, personality, and behavior, could signal that they are developing a memory disease, such as frontotemporal dementia.
Frontotemporal dementia generally progresses slowly. Your loved one will go through seven stages. However, how quickly the disease progresses often has a lot to do with a senior’s overall health and if they have any other medical conditions.
While your loved one can likely remain in their home for quite some time with support and assistance, eventually, you’ll need to consider a memory care community.
Learn more about the seven stages of frontotemporal dementia, how to plan for the future, coping strategies for caregivers, and where to find a loving memory care community.
What is frontotemporal dementia?
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain.
This type of dementia primarily affects people under the age of 65, although it can also occur in older adults.
If your older loved one is developing FTD, you may notice changes in their behavior, personality, decision-making, and problem-solving.
There is no known cure for FTD, and treatment options are limited to managing symptoms and providing supportive care.
Signs of frontotemporal dementia
- A decline in social skills
- Loss of interest in activities
- Changes in eating habits
- Emotional instability
- Difficulty with speaking and understanding language
- Lack of inhibition
- Problem with planning and organizing
If you notice signs of FTD in your loved one, getting them evaluated and diagnosed is the first step in helping them get the support they need.
The 7 stages of frontotemporal dementia
Those with frontotemporal dementia will progress through the disease differently. The stages are not firm and only here to emphasize how a senior’s condition will worsen over time.
This is the earliest stage of the disease and often goes unnoticed. There are no visible symptoms or cognitive deficits at this stage, and individuals with frontotemporal dementia can still perform their daily activities.
However, brain imaging studies can reveal early changes in the brain’s structure and function associated with FTD.
During this stage, your loved one may experience some cognitive changes, such as difficulty with language, problem-solving, and planning.
They may also experience behavioral and personality changes, like increased impulsivity, apathy, or a lack of empathy.
These changes may be subtle initially and go unnoticed by family members and friends.
At this stage, the cognitive and behavioral symptoms become more pronounced, and your loved one may have difficulty with daily living activities.
They may also struggle with social interactions and withdraw from social situations. It’s also common to see those with FTD exhibit repetitive behaviors and compulsions.
We recommend starting to think about a transition to senior living at this point, before the symptoms become too severe and while your loved one can still participate in the conversation.
During this stage, your loved one’s cognitive and behavioral symptoms become even more severe, and they will need assistance with activities of daily living.
They may also have difficulty with language comprehension and production, leading to difficulty communicating with others.
You may also notice changes in their motor skills, such as difficulty with balance or gait.
At this stage, cognitive and behavioral symptoms are consistently severe, and your loved one will no longer be able to perform activities of daily living on their own. They may also have difficulty recognizing familiar faces and objects.
A senior living community is recommended if your loved one has not transitioned to one yet, as they will need help with toileting, feeding, and other basic needs.
Very severe stage
During this stage, your loved one will no longer be able to communicate verbally and will require assistance with all aspects of care.
They may also experience changes in their sleep patterns, such as agitation at night.
At this stage, your loved one will entirely depend on others, and they may experience severe physical and cognitive decline.
Individuals in this stage generally require palliative care to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.
Planning for the future
While there is no cure for FTD, early diagnosis and management can help individuals and their families plan for the future and optimize their quality of life.
Some things to consider and expect with planning for the future with FTD:
- Early diagnosis and assessment
- Safety precautions
- Understanding the disease progression and stages
- Legal and financial planning
- Caregiver support
- Support groups
- Senior living communities
- End-of-life care
By working closely with healthcare professionals, family members, and other caregivers, those with FTD and their families can develop a care plan that addresses their unique needs and preferences.
Coping strategies for caregivers and loved ones
Caring for a loved one with frontotemporal dementia can be challenging and stressful for caregivers. These coping strategies can help you and other caregivers manage stress and maintain your well-being.
Caregivers can benefit from seeking support from family members, friends, or support groups.
They can provide emotional support and practical advice and alleviate some of the caregiving responsibilities.
Caregivers need time to take care of themselves. It is essential to take breaks from caregiving to engage in self-care activities, such as exercise, hobbies, or meditation.
Establishing routines can help caregivers and individuals with FTD maintain a sense of structure and predictability.
Focus on positive moments
FTD can be a challenging disease, but there are still positive moments to be found.
Caregivers can focus on these moments, such as a smile or a shared memory, to help cope with the stress.
Caregiving for some with FTD requires a great deal of patience. It is important to remain patient and avoid reacting to challenging behaviors with anger or frustration.
Learning about FTD and the disease progression can help caregivers understand what to expect and develop effective caregiving strategies.
Seek professional help
Caregiving can be overwhelming. Caregivers may benefit from seeking professional help, such as counseling or therapy, to manage stress.
A senior living community for all stages of dementia
Kensington Place Redwood City is a memory care community that provides residents with high-acuity care and specialized services.
We offer two levels of memory care neighborhoods – Connections for our early to middle stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia, and Haven for late to end stage.
Our Promise is to love and care for your family as we do our own.