Frontotemporal Disorders (FTD) and Dementia

Frontotemporal dementia is very stressful for caregivers. (NIA)

According to the National Institute on Aging, frontotemporal disorders and dementia (FTD) is caused by a family of neurodegenerative brain diseases called frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). Frontotemporal dementia occurs when neurons (nerve cells) are damaged in the parts of the brain called the frontal and temporal lobes. When the neurons die in these parts of the brain, these lobes shrink or atrophy. This does not affect short-term memory like the kind of dementia found in Alzheimer’s disease. However, other symptoms can resemble Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Frontotemporal dementia leads to:

  • Difficulties in thinking
  • Emotional problems and inappropriate social behavior
  • Difficulty communicating
  • Trouble with work
  • Trouble with decision making like managing finances
  • Difficulty walking
  • Problems with driving
  • Inability to perform day-to-day activities such as preparing meals.

Treatment and Management of Frontotemporal Disorders

Frontotemporal disorders are progressive which means that over time the symptoms get worse. Unfortunately, today there is no cure or treatment that can prevent or slow down the progression of frontotemporal dementia. Once FTD is diagnosed, people may live about 10 years or longer. While there is no cure, treatment is mainly aimed at managing symptoms.

Managing FTD Behavior Changes

Behavior changes from FTD present a challenge to family members and caregivers. It is not possible to reason or argue with people with FTD dementia. They may be apathetic or suffer from compulsive behavior like compulsive eating and other compulsive behaviors.

Medications

  • Anti-depressants are prescribed to treat impulsive behavior and inappropriate social behavior.
  • Low doses of antipsychotic medications are given to those who are aggressive or who are suffering from delusions.

Managing FTD Language and Communication Problems

Primary progressive aphasia (PPA) is commonly found in FTD patients and sometimes patients can only communicate via a notebook or photo album with photos and names of people and objects. Sometimes a computer is used to point to words or phrases. It may be necessary to consult a speech and language pathologist, but make sure they are experienced in treating FTD. For the record, most speech pathologists are trained to treat aphasia caused by stroke.

Managing Movement Problems

Physical and occupational therapy may help with movement problems. In some cases, medicines used for treating Parkinson’s disease may help. Some patients get FTD-ALS and their lifespan is only about 2-3 years. Eventually they will not be able to walk eat or breathe on their own. They may need to go to a long-term skilled nursing care facility.

Long-term Skilled Nursing Care for People with FTD

As this disease is progressive, the burden on caregivers and family members can become too stressful and sometimes the person with FTD will deteriorate to the point of needing 24-7 care. For this reason, people with advanced FTD may need to be sent to a long-term care facility.

The Park Crescent healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in East Orange, New Jersey

The Park Crescent Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in East Orange, New Jersey offers excellent long-term skilled nursing care at the hands of a warm and professional staff. Your loved one will be in good hands.

Conclusion

Scientists are engaged in all kinds of research to find a cure or way to slow down FTD as well as other neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Let  us hope that a breakthrough will soon be found to prevent or cure these very difficult and severe diseases.

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