What is meant by the term “mixed dementia?”

Mixed dementia is a term used when someone has more than one type of dementia. Most commonly, mixed dementia is the terminology used when an someone has been diagnosed with both Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. However, it can also refer to a combination of Alzheimer’s disease and any other type of dementia. Physicians sometimes call this condition “Dementia-multifactorial.”

The determination of “mixed dementia” is often hard to validate, and is infrequently diagnosed. Traditionally, physicians identify one type of dementia, usually Alzheimer’s or vascular dementia. However, researchers are increasingly discovering that many individuals who have been diagnosed with one type of dementia may also have another kind. Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia and even Lewy body dementia have all been discovered in combinations through autopsies. One study by the National Institute on Aging revealed that in 94 percent of the participants who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, their autopsies showed 54 percent also had another type of dementia.

Those with mixed dementia usually exhibit symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s disease. These symptoms may progress faster or be manifested earlier because the brain is affected by more than one type of dementia and/or the brain is damaged in more than one area. The diagnosis and confirmation of mixed dementia is definitively made after the person’s death.

There are no approved drugs to treat mixed dementia, yet individuals with mixed dementia tend to respond favorably to most medications prescribed for Alzheimer’s disease.

Questions about Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia disorder? Contact Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, Director of Services at Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area, (225) 334-7494, advice@alzbr.org, or visit the organization at 3772 North Blvd., Baton Rouge.