Understanding Frontotemporal Dementia, or Pick’s Disease

Son Sitting with Senior Father

Dementia is a general term for cognitive decline or memory loss caused by changes in the brain. Within the category of dementia, there are many different types with various causes and symptoms. Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is one such type. As described by its name, FTD affects the brain’s frontal and temporal lobes, those near the front of the brain behind the forehead and the areas behind the ears. This type of dementia is also known as Pick’s disease, named for the doctor who first observed its symptoms.

Frontotemporal dementia comes with its own specific symptoms and challenges. Rob Low, Community Relations Director at Clarity Pointe™ Pensacola, a memory care assisted living community in Pensacola, Florida, says, “Each type of dementia offers a specific range of symptoms for each person. It’s important for those diagnosed with dementia to understand what type they have. This can make a huge difference in what kind of care they need to maintain a high quality of life.”

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, or you would like to learn more about this specific disease, the following information can help you understand the causes, symptoms and care options for FTD.

What Is Frontotemporal Dementia?

So far, research tells us that dementia is caused by the progressive loss of nerve cells in the brain. With frontotemporal dementia, this nerve cell loss takes place in the frontal and temporal regions, leading to a loss of function in these areas. Unlike Alzheimer’s disease, in which memory loss is a significant symptom, FTD causes deterioration of a person’s behavior and personality, language use or changes in their motor functions.

Frontotemporal dementia is categorized into three subtypes based on these symptoms:

  • Behavior variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) – This type of frontotemporal dementia causes decline in the areas of the brain that control behaviors, social and interpersonal conduct, judgment, empathy and more. This subtype manifests as prominent changes in personality and behavior and a decline in interpersonal relationships. A person with bvFTD might withdraw from their spouse or children or make inappropriate remarks in public. They may display an emotional flatness or general sense of apathy, not caring what others think to the point their words and actions are uninhibited by manners, norms or respect for others. BvFTD typically appears in a person’s 50s or 60s, but it can begin anytime from their 20s to their 80s.

  • Primary progressive aphasia (PPA) – This type of FTD affects a person’s language skills, writing abilities, speaking and comprehension. There are two kinds of PPA:

    • Semantic – loss of ability to understand or formulate words or recognize familiar faces and objects

    • Nonfluent/agrammatic – progressive loss of the ability to speak; a person’s speech may be hesitant, ungrammatical or labored

  • Progressive motor decline – Frontotemporal dementia includes three kinds of muscle or motor disorders that might appear with or without bvFTD or PPA:

    • ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease)

    • Corticobasal syndrome (arms and legs become uncoordinated or stiff)

    • Progressive supranuclear palsy (muscle stiffness, difficulty walking, changes in posture, affects eye movements)

What Causes Frontotemporal Dementia?

At this point, there are no known risk factors for frontotemporal dementia except for genetics. One third of FTD cases are inherited from family members who also have the disease. Scientists are starting to determine what genes are linked to cases of FTD in individuals, which can help family members get tested to see if they possess the same gene mutation.

How to Care for Someone with Frontotemporal Dementia

For now, there are no specific medications that can treat frontotemporal dementia. Some medications, such as those to treat depression, agitation or irritability, can help those with FTD experience greater quality of life.

As with most other types of dementia, caring for a person with frontotemporal dementia involves managing their symptoms. Because FTD can cause severe behavior and personality changes, caregivers and family members should learn as much as they can about frontotemporal dementia in order to cope with the effects of these symptoms. Many times, caregivers of those with bvFTD must learn how to compartmentalize their loved one’s words or behaviors, understanding that they cannot control what they say or do.

Caregivers of those with PPA may seek the help of a speech therapist or pathologist. However, since the disease is progressive and without a cure, most caregivers need to develop new ways to communicate with their loved ones other than normal speech. Loved one’s with motor difficulties are eventually wheelchair-bound and require advanced care for their physical health and well-being.

All caregivers of a loved one with any kind of dementia should seek support to help them learn about their loved one’s disease, find out how to best take care of them, and ultimately cope with symptoms and progressive decline of their loved one’s abilities. Recognizing that they are not alone in their trials is vital for caregivers to remain resilient in their role and cope with the many challenges of dementia.

Specialized Care When You Need It the Most

At Clarity Pointe™ Pensacola, memory care is all we do. Our community is designed to care for and enhance the lives of those with dementia, as well as their families and caregivers. Specialized care plans and programs are delivered by trained professionals who understand the unique forms of dementia and know how to care for a vast range of challenging symptoms.

“If you’re caring for a loved one with frontotemporal dementia or another form of dementia, Clarity Pointe was designed for your family,” says Low. “We’re committed to helping family caregivers learn about and provide better care for their loved ones at home. And, when needs grow beyond what families can accommodate at home, we welcome them into our community, where they’ll find excellent, trained caregivers who take the time to understand each resident and offer the best care and programming available.”

To learn more about frontotemporal dementia or memory care available at Clarity Pointe Pensacola, contact our community today.

Clarity Pointe … Our Difference is Clear

Clarity Pointe’s Specialized Memory Care “Living” Neighborhoods are truly changing lives for those with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias – and for those who love them. At Clarity Pointe, our mission is to ensure our residents lead connected and rewarding lives.

Unlike other providers that offer a secure memory care wing in a skilled nursing or assisted living center, Clarity Pointe Pensacola offers three freestanding, purpose-built Memory Care communities that are solely and entirely dedicated to Memory Care Assisted Living. Our communities blend luxurious surroundings with specialized care that is individualized to each resident and delivered by a compassionate, expert team of professionals.

We stay current on the latest trends and advancements in Alzheimer’s care and implement them into our residents’ care plans. Always moving forward, we combine the latest in evidence-based programming with luxurious, residential living and compassionate respectful care.

For each of our residents, we offer a life that is engaging, fulfilling, inspiring and meaningful.

To learn more about the Clarity Pointe Difference, contact us today!