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My father passed away on Thanksgiving and I am still trying to make sense of his illness. He was diagnosed with dementia. My understanding is the 70% of all dementia patients have alzheimers but was not a definitive diagnosis. How do we know whether it was actually alzheimers. Also, he had falls that exacerbated his condition. I was with him a couple of times when he appeared to faint with his eyes open and non-responsive. Then he would return consciousness. Could these have been strokes? Or just simple fainting from the effort. His first most serious fall resulted in a brain injury. He was wearing 3 sweaters on a 90 degree day, which is typical of dementia... but why the subsequent falls with the blank stares and non responsiveness. I still have not received a conclusive answer to all my questions. Any insight here would be appreciated. Thanks so much.

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Maria1234, I think that your 70% figure for Alzheimer's is high, but it depends on the source you use and also whether it is based on definitive diagnosis through autopsy, or clinical diagnosis. The rate of diagnoses contradicted by autopsy is dismayingly high. If you can obtain a review of brain tissue from the medical school, that would definitely be your best chance of an understanding of what was going on.

My husband had Lewy Body Dementia (confirmed via autopsy). His falls did not follow a typical pattern and when I described them in detail his neurologist and also his sleep-specialist psychiatrist thought he might be suffering "narcoleptic-like" episodes of sudden loss of muscle tone (cataplexy). That has never been confirmed, but treating him for that did magically stop the falling.

As you can tell, the whole topic of dementia is very complex. You may never get all the answers you want, but I certainly hope you can find most of the major ones.

My condolences on your father's recent death.
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Thanks Pam. Very helpful. I am certain my dad was having mini strokes.. his brain was really failing him... I certainly hope there is are better treatments and prevention in the future. The brain is a complex organ.... and once neurons and cells get damaged it seem like a finished deal.. and a waiting game while your loved one dies a slow but insidious death. The only regret I have is not getting an earlier diagnosis. We may have been able to prevent the serious fall in which he sustained a head injury. It was really downhill and painful series of rehabs and hospitalizations for over 2 years until we placed him in hospice care just this October. He passed almost a month after. Tough stuff.
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I am new to ALZ, but an "old hand" at strokes, and neuro problems.. hope I was of some help!
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Maria, my dad has ALZ, my mom is his caregiver (until they both moved in with me) She is very frail and has had several TIA based on scans. She has cardiac issues. Her strokes are separate from ALZ. Dad is healthy as a horse at this time except for controlled diabetes and ALZ. BUT.. you can certainly have both, and this sounds like what you were dealing with. TIAs can happen to anyone/any age. Do not blame yourself!
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Pam, did your mom have alzheimers? Is this part and parcel of this disease? Thanks for your response and prayers....
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The fainting and blank stare of indicative of a TIA. My Mom had a few in the past, and one witnessed since she moved in with us. They normally "recover" within 5 = 15 minutes. Nausea and some dizziness are common with these. They are a warning sign of a possible stroke in the future ( your bleeding in the brain). They seem to go back to "normal" pretty quickly. I work in a neuro ICU and my mom is a retired nurse.. so we both knew what was happening. It is never easy, and my prayers are with you.
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Jessie, i think you get it. I am looking for answers and I realize it is moving me through the grief, somewhat. As I feel like I am doing SOMETHING. The loss is terrible and I guess it keeps me connected to him in some way. Wishing you a very joyful holiday. Thanks for the condolences. Maria
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maria, I hope you can find something out. I am so sorry about your father and know that you are feeling much grief right now. Looking for answers might be able to help you with the grief. I know it can't be fixed, but knowing is important. I understand, since I did the same thing wanting to know something about what happened with my father. Learning more helped me deal better with his death. I never learned completely what happened to him, because so much was wrong, but thinking on it was healing for me.
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Hi, vstefans. Thanks. Well, I really want to know why my father's brain deteriorated and better understand the illness. You are right, hard to write off.. even though the end result is the same...
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Thanks for the response pstiegman! I guess I am not convinced one way or another, since we received so many conflicting messages from docs. Because he had a severe fall that resulted in a brain injury, the MRI according to the docs, revealed bleeding to the brain but no sign of stroke. However, during the progression over the last couple of years, he was fainting or seizing or stroking. We just don't know for sure. I just know that when I was with him during the falls he had a blank stare and I thought we lost him during those falls.. only he would return consciousness. The last week, he stopped eating (vomited) and his digestive system shut down. Typical of a dying patient. Anyway, all the stuff I've read only explains that dementia is a symptom not a diagnosis. My sweet dad donated his body to a local medical school and I am going to inquire whether an autopsy can give us an answer. Thanks again.
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Unless he had a complete autopsy at death, you will never know. The definitive diagnosis is done after death by examining brain tissue. However, from the symptoms you describe, multiple strokes and/or vascular dementia sound more likely.
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Well, a good place to go to look at information on the different types of dementia would be www.alz.org/dementia/types-of-dementia.asp unless you want something in more technical language. I almost passed this by but then remembered how hard it was to hear that "it didn't matter" what type of dementia my dad had once the workup for potentially reversible causes was complete (of course it mattered! - he had frontotemporal and/or vascular, and my mom had vascular - both very different experience than Alzheimer's...) and how hard it would be for you to ask and not be answered yet again.

But, are you worried about stones you left unturned, worried about yourself, or worried about Mom now??
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