Rapidly Progressive Dementia in Seniors

In this blog, we will delve into this condition, how it’s diagnosed, and what treatment options are available.
Rapidly Progressive Dementia in Seniors

Fast Progressing Dementia

For seniors, being diagnosed with Rapidly Progressive Dementia is extremely challenging for themselves and their loved ones. In this blog, we will delve into this condition, how it’s diagnosed, and what treatment options are available.

What is Rapidly Progressive Dementia (RPD)?

Rapidly Progressive Dementia, also known as rapid onset dementia, is a form of cognitive impairment that develops quickly as compared to other forms of dementia. Symptoms of RPD become apparent typically with weeks or months. The condition is rare, and often difficult to appropriately diagnose.

Old worried senior woman comforting her depressed, mental ill husband, unhappy elderly man at home need medical help.
Caregiver and senior woman holding hands at home

What Causes Rapidly Progressive Dementia?

Medical research is still trying to better understand RPD, but some causes of the condition have been identified, including:

  • Autoimmune Diseases – A condition where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells instead of fighting viruses or bacteria.
  • Infections – Certain viruses, bacterial, or fungal infections can cause brain inflammation and  trigger RPD.
  • Vitamin Deficiencies – Insufficient levels of B12, B1, Niacin, Folate, and other vitamins/minerals have been found to contribute to rapid cognitive decline.
  • Impaired Blood Flow to the Brain – Blocked blood flow to the brain can cause RPD. There are usually physical causes why blood flow is being restricted, including blocked arteries, heart failure, or other circulatory related issues.
  • Drug Interactions – Certain adverse drug interactions have led to memory loss, and brain impairment.

What are the Symptoms of Rapidly Progressive Dementia?

 Common symptoms of RPD include:

  • Poor Judgement or Decision-Making Skills – A rapid change in the ability to accurately assess situations, and make decisions.
  • Sudden Memory Loss – Inability to recall recent events, or track conversations with others.
  • Physical Movement Issues – Some older people with RPD will notice a change in their ability to walk, or move their limbs in the same way they could just weeks or months ago.
  • Mood Changes or Depression – Rapidly Progressive Dementia can cause sudden mood changes in seniors, accompanied by extreme emotional swings, anxiety, or depression.
  • Flu Like Symptoms – Symptoms such as a fever, chills, loss of appetite, and severe headache can be indications that a significant decline in cognitive function has occurred.
  • Apathy – A sudden indifference, or lack of caring about certain topics that normally would interest an older person could be an indication of RPD.
Elderly senior woman grandmother sitting on the sofa couch, feeling nostalgy, pain, missing grandchildren.
Daughter Embracing Her Contemplative Senior Father At Home

How Rapidly Progressive Dementia is Diagnosed

While Rapidly Progressive Dementia is not easy to diagnose, there is testing available that provides insight into whether RPD is present, including:

  • Comprehensive Physical & Neurological Exams – If you suspect a loved one is experiencing RPD, a doctor can conduct a complete physical examination, and neurological assessment of their basic brain function.
  • Blood Panel – Your loved one’s physician can complete a full blood work assessment, including rheumatology, and thyroid function.
  • Montreal Cognitive Assessment- Created in 1996, this test has become a reliable indicator for early cognitive impairment. The assessment focuses on a person’s executive function, attention level, and short-term memory skills.
  • Brain MRI – An MRI can detect bleeding, swelling, or inflammation in the brain, as well as identify damage from a traumatic injury, stroke, or blood vessel issues.

Treating Rapidly Progressive Dementia

It is best to determine the actual cause of RPD, so specific treatments can be strategically focused. Medication such as cholinesterase inhibitors, and Memantine are used to treat brain function and memory loss.

Antibiotics, or antiviral drugs are used in situations where infection is present, and steroids can help reduce overall inflammation, and brain swelling. Antibodies such as immunoglobulins boost the immune system to combat pathogens. In the case of cancer, doctors may elect radiation, chemotherapy, or surgery to remove a tumor.

Woman spending time with her elderly mother at home.

Living with Rapidly Progressive Dementia Frontier Senior Living is Here to Help

If your loved one has developed RPD, it’s important to immediately seek medical attention to determine what steps can be taken to treat, or slow the progression of the condition. Preparing for the future is also highly recommended, including the exploration of dementia care options like AssistedLiving or Memory Care communities.

Consult an attorney on behalf of your loved one, as documents such as Power of Attorney for Health Care, and living wills will became extremely important in the future.

The highly compassionate and experienced staff at Frontier Senior Living has helped many families find the perfect Senior Living community to meet their loved ones’ unique needs. Each day, we assist our residents live lives full of purpose and meaning.

If you would like to learn more about our many services, we cordially invite you to visit one of our beautiful communities, take a tour, and speak with our friendly staff.

Find a community near you
that perfectly fits your needs.

Nearby Communities

The Parc at Harbor View Senior Living

46 Lincoln Street
Winthrop, Massachusetts 02152
(857) 349-5044
Levels of Care:

Independent Living, Assisted Living, Memory Care

Keepsake Village of Columbus Memory Care

2564 Fox Pointe Drive
Columbus, Indiana 47203
(812) 900-4936
Levels of Care:

Assisted Living, Memory Care

The Preserve at Hickory Woods Senior Living

Nashville, Tennessee 37013
Levels of Care:

Assisted Living, Memory Care