Mixed dementia is a term used when an individual has more than one type of dementia.

Most commonly, the term is used when someone has been diagnosed with both Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, but 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 while the person is alive. Traditionally, physicians identify just one type of dementia.

However, researchers are increasingly discovering through autopsies that many individuals had more one type of dementia. A National Institute on Aging study revealed that 94% of the participants had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and their autopsies showed that 54% had another type of dementia.

The symptoms of mixed dementia are similar to Alzheimer’s disease. The symptoms may progress faster or manifest earlier because the brain is affected by more than one type of dementia, or the brain is damaged in more than one area. The confirmation of mixed dementia is definitively made after someone dies. The autopsy would reveal that the brain shows more than one type of abnormality such as a buildup of tau protein and blockages in the brain vessels.

Oftentimes when an individual has a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease with symptoms of other issues, such as cardiovascular health problems, that would suggest vascular dementia, and the physician would make a diagnosis of mixed dementia.

Advances in research and imaging techniques will hopefully provide better diagnostic tools so that mixed dementia can be diagnosed long before an autopsy.

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

Research results have varied for individuals with mixed dementia who were treated with cholinesterase inhibitor medications. Some results found that the cognitive decline expected in mixed dementia had slowed down, and others even demonstrated some limited improvement in memory and thinking. Additionally, other treatments for mixed dementia, specifically the combination of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, focus on factors such as blood pressure and cholesterol management.

Questions about Alzheimer's disease or related disorders can be sent to Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, owner of Dana Territo Consulting, LLC, at thememorywhisperer@gmail.com.