All You Need to Know About Frontotemporal Dementia

Last Updated : 09/17/20195 min read

Summary: Frontotemporal dementia is a brain disease that may run in families & is eventually deadly. Knowing the signs, causes, and Medicare treatment may help you give your loved one better care.

The thought of “losing your mind” may be terrifying, but it may be helpful to learn more about what kinds of dementia you or your loved one may face.

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Dementia is defined as a mental decline severe enough to mess up daily activities, according to the Alzheimer’s association. Research published by the National Institute of Health (NIH) says that frontotemporal dementia is one of the most common causes of dementia in younger people. This disease also often gets misdiagnosed in younger patients because early symptoms may mimic such mental illnesses as depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder according to NIH.

What causes frontotemporal dementia?

The NIH study reports that frontotemporal dementia is a brain disease that tends to run in families. Researchers have identified specific genes are related to a higher risk of developing frontotemporal dementia. At the same time, they have not identified any non-genetic risk factors for this disease.

According to Medline Plus, patients develop abnormal substances in the nerve cells of damaged areas of their brain. These substances are called:

  • Tangles
  • Pick cells
  • Pick Bodies
  • Tau proteins

Sometimes doctors refer to frontotemporal dementia as FTD, Pick Disease, 3R tauopathy, semantic dementia, or simply, dementia.

While most people begin to display frontotemporal dementia symptoms in their 50s or early 60s, some patients are diagnosed as young as 20. The NIH suggests that possible misdiagnosis of younger patients makes it hard to say exactly how often this disease appears in younger people.

What are the signs of frontotemporal dementia?

Medline Plus says people who suffer from frontotemporal dementia tend to suffer from behavioral and mood changes first. Some initial frontotemporal dementia symptoms can include:

  • Compulsive or repetitive behaviors
  • Inability to keep a job or interact in social situations
  • Mood changes or inappropriate moods
  • Apparent lack of caring or withdrawal from social situations

These behavioral and emotional frontotemporal dementia symptoms can help doctors distinguish between it and other kinds of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. Typically, patients with Alzheimer’s disease suffer from memory loss first.

Later on, people with this kind of dementia may also suffer from loss of language skills. For example, they may have a decreased vocabulary and struggle to read and write or even to form spoken words. Later, they may lose language abilities completely.

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This disease also causes such nervous system problems as rigid muscle tone, problems with coordination, weakness, and eventually, memory loss. Another frontotemporal dementia symptom is urinary incontinence.

Can frontotemporal dementia kill you?

Sadly, frontotemporal dementia usually causes total disability and death within a decade, according to Medline Plus. Patients commonly experience infections, organ failures, or nutritional disorders as the disease progresses. There is also no known prevention of frontotemporal dementia but doctors may use medication to treat symptoms.

Therapists have sometimes helped with behavioral modification, talk therapy, and reality orientation. However, these kinds of therapies don’t always work and in some cases, make patients more confused. Eventually, most patients with frontotemporal dementia require constant care.

Medicare coverage for frontotemporal dementia

Medicare recipients with dementia may qualify for Medicare Special Needs Plans, usually called SNPs. Insurers tailor these plans to suit the requirements of people who suffer from certain illnesses. SNPs are typically managed care plans that require patients to get most care from a network provider and to choose a primary care doctor to coordinate care.

At the same time, these kinds of plans generally have the kinds of specialists that can help people who suffer from dementia or other illnesses. Some SNPs are also specially designed for patients with both Medicare and Medicaid or for those who reside in nursing homes. Medicare generally doesn’t cover long-term care within nursing homes, but it may cover some home healthcare visits, short-term nursing home stays, and other medical needs.

Your doctor may prescribe a variety of medications to treat mood disorders and physical problems that can cause confusion. According to Medline Plus, your doctor may prescribe medication for infections, kidney failure anemia, and more. Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) generally don’t cover most medications you take at home. That’s where Medicare Part D comes in.

You can get Medicare Part D as a stand-alone plan if you have Original Medicare. You also can get Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage bundled with your hospital and medical benefits in a Medicare Advantage plan. Medicare Advantage plans also often cover extra benefits which may be helpful for a frontotemporal dementia patient, such as routine vision and routine dental.

Do you need help to find the right Medicare plan for a loved one who suffers from dementia? If so, just enter your ZIP code on this page.

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