Glossary of Definitions

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Definition:  Most common type of dementia.  It accounts for an estimated 60 to 80 percent of cases.  It is a slowly progressive brain disease that begins well before symptoms are evident.


Symptoms: Difficulty remembering recent conversations, names, or events are often early  symptoms, as are apathy and depression. Later symptoms include impaired communication, poor judgment, disorientation, confusion, behavior changes and difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking.




Definition:  Previously known as post-stroke dementia, vascular dementia is less common than Alzheimer’s, accounting for about ten percent of dementia cases.


Symptoms: Impaired judgment or ability to make decisions, plan, or organize are likely to be initial symptoms, as opposed to the memory loss often associated with the initial symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Vascular dementia occurs from blood vessel blockage or damage leading to strokes or bleeding in the brain.




Definition:    Lewy bodies are abnormal clumps of protein that develop in a part of the brain called the cortex.  The brain changes of dementia with Lewy bodies alone can cause dementia, or they can be present at the same time as brain changes caused by Alzheimer’s disease and/or vascular dementia. When this happens, the individual is said to have mixed dementia.


Symptoms:  People with dementia with Lewy bodies often have the memory loss and reasoning problems common in Alzheimer’s and are likely to have symptoms earlier–such as sleep disturbances, visual hallucinations, slowness, gait imbalance, or other Parkinson-like movements.




Definition:  In mixed dementia, abnormalities linked to more than one cause of dementia occur simultaneously in the brain.


Symptoms: Characterized by the hallmark abnormalities of more than one cause of dementia, with common dementia symptoms.




Definition: A progressive disease of the nervous system marked by tremor, muscular rigidity, and slow, imprecise movement–chiefly affecting middle-aged and elderly people


Symptoms: Problems with movement–slowness, rigidity, tremor and changes in gait–are common symptoms of the disease.  As Parkinson’s disease progresses, it often results in a progressive dementia similar to dementia with Lewy bodies or Alzheimer’s.




Definition:  Includes dementias such as behavioral-variant frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD), primary progressive aphasia, Pick’s disease, cortico-basal degeneration, and progressive  palsy.


Symptoms: Typical symptoms include changes in personality and behavior and difficulty with language. Nerve cells in the front and side regions of the brain are especially affected.




Definition: This is the most common human form of a group of rare and fatal brain disorders affecting people and certain other mammals. A specific form called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is believed to be caused by consumption of products from cattle affected by mad cow disease.


Symptoms: Rapidly fatal disorder that impairs memory and coordination and causes behavior changes.




Definition:  Memory issues caused by the buildup of fluid in the brain.  Can sometimes be corrected with surgery  by inserting a shunt to drain excess fluid.


Symptoms: Symptoms include difficulty walking, memory loss, and inability to control urination.




Definition:  Huntington’s disease is a progressive brain disorder caused by a single defective gene on chromosome 4.


Symptoms: Abnormal involuntary movements, a severe decline in thinking and reasoning skills, irritability, depression, and other mood changes.





Definition:  Korsakoff syndrome is a chronic memory disorder caused by a severe deficiency of thiamine (vitamin B-1). The most common cause is alcohol addiction.


Symptoms: Memory problems may be strikingly severe while other thinking and social skills may be unaffected.




Some of these definitions are unique to the US where the International Christian Dementia Network is headquartered.  If you have suggestions for additions from your country, please email us. 


Activities of Daily Living (ADLs):

This refers to the basic tasks of everyday living including dressing, bathing, eating, necessary mobility, and toilet use.


Relief services for caregivers during any part of the day with structured programs for the patient.

Adult Protective Service: 

A public agency that processes reports of abuse or neglect of vulnerable adults.


Area Agency on Aging (AAA) or

Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC):

These US agencies are designated by the state to plan and coordinate services for older people (AAA) or for older people and adults with disabilities (ADRC) within a specific geographical area.


Housing for those who need help living independently, but do not yet need skilled nursing care. The level of assistance varies depending on residents and may include help with bathing, dressing, meals, and housekeeping.


Community Meals or Meals on Wheels: 

These agencies provide meals served either at a community location or delivered to the home depending the patient’s physical conditions.



A conservator is a person appointed by a court to handle someone’s affairs when that person can no longer do it themselves.


Continuing Care Retirement Communities: 

These agencies provide housing that offers various living options and services designed to meet changing needs.  They include independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing care, often at the same location.


Discharge Planner:

A professional who helps patients and their families develop a plan of care for a patient following a hospital or nursing home stay.


Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order:

This is a legal document prepared by a doctor and signed by the patient to express a to not be resuscitated during a medical emergency.


Durable Power of Attorney for Finances: 

A legal document that allows a person to give authority to someone else to make financial decisions on his or her behalf.


Family And Medical Leave Act (FMLA):

This US law requires some employers to allow you take unpaid time off work to care for an ill family member with your job or an equivalent  guaranteed when you return.


Family Caregiver:

A person who provides unpaid assistance to someone who is ill, disabled, or needs help with daily activities.


Geriatric Care Manager:

A professional who performs an assessment of a person’s mental, physical, environmental, and financial conditions to create a comprehensive care plan.



A person appointed by the court who is responsible for the care and management of another who has been deemed incapable of making decisions.

Health Care Power of Attorney (HCPA, or Health Care Proxy)

A durable power of attorney in which a person appoints another to make health care decisions for them should they become unable to do so. 

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA):

A US law that gives you privacy rights over your health information.


Home Health Agency (HHA):

An agency that provides health-related services in the home, such as nursing, occupational, speech or physical therapy, social work or personal care.


Home Health Aide:

A professional who helps with bathing, dressing, grooming, meals and light housekeeping.


Homemaker Services:

A service that provides assistance with general household activities, such as meal preparation, cleaning, laundry and shopping.


Hospice Care

Professionally coordinated support services, including pain and symptom management, social services, and emotional and spiritual support for terminally ill people and their families.


Living Will (Part of a Health Care Directive) :

A legal document that states a person’s wishes regarding lifesaving medical treatments if they are unable to communicate their health care wishes.  


Long-Term Care Insurance: 

Insurance that pays part of the cost of care received in the home, assisted living residences, nursing home care, and other designated services.



The national health insurance program in the US for people age 65 and older and for some younger persons with disabilities.  It covers hospital stays, doctor visits, prescription drugs and other health care-related services.



A federal- and state-funded health and long-term care program for people in the US with limited income and assets.


National Family Caregiver Support Program: 

A federally funded program available in the US that provides assistance to family caregivers who care for their loved ones at home. Services may include caregiver education, training, information, counseling, links to community services and respite.


Nursing Home:

A facility that provides intermediate care (assistance with personal care and activities of daily living) or skilled care (24-hour medical, nursing and rehabilitation care).  A nursing home is often used to transition from hospital to home if the patient is able to return home.


Palliative Care: 

Professionally coordinated services that focus on the physical, mental, social and spiritual needs of those with life-threatening illness. The goal is to maintain the highest level of comfort and provide assistance to the families of the patient.


Personal Emergency Response System (PERS): 

An electronic device with a call button for summoning assistance in an emergency.


Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST): 

A form, signed by both patient, and doctor, that states what kinds of medical treatment patients want toward the end of their lives.


Respite Care:

Temporary care for an individual provided by family, friends, or adult services that provide their caregiver with a break.