What Is the Difference Between Alzheimer’s and Dementia


Millions of Americans currently live with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Over 35% of older adults aged 85 years and older have Alzheimer’s. If you or a loved one are exhibiting symptoms of dementia, you may be wondering how to tell Alzheimer’s vs. dementia differences. Are the two conditions different? If so, how do they differ from each other?

Elder Care Alliance seeks to clear up the confusion surrounding Alzheimer’s and dementia in this guide. Here is what you should know about the two conditions and how they differ.

Doctor examines brain scans
Close-up image of doctor’s hand pointing at x-ray results

Understanding Dementia

Dementia is a term that generally describes declining cognitive abilities (including thinking difficulties and memory loss). The changes that cause dementia occur within the affected person’s brain. As damage occurs to cells in the brain, the symptoms of dementia tend to worsen. Symptoms of dementia generally include:

  • Changes in memory
  • Changes in language
  • Unexpected behavior changes
  • Inability to complete everyday tasks
  • Poor reasoning skills and judgment
  • Decreased attention and focus

There are different types of dementia a person can develop. For example, vascular dementia causes slowness of thought. Lewy-body dementia is usually associated with severe limitations in physical mobility.

Currently, there is no known cure for dementia. But people with this common condition can receive treatments that may help them deal with the symptoms of dementia. Elder Care Alliance offers a special memory care program for those living with dementia. This program helps people with all types of memory loss connect with others, continue learning, and contribute to society in meaningful ways.

Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a specific type of brain disease that causes dementia. Of all the different causes of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause. It is so common that many people mistakenly use the two terms interchangeably when they are not the same things. When it comes to Alzheimer’s vs. dementia differences, the main difference between the two is that Alzheimer’s is a leading cause of dementia, but dementia does not cause Alzheimer’s.

Early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease include changes in reasoning and thinking skills, problems with memory, and difficulty learning. Throughout disease progression, symptoms worsen and may consist of severe behavior changes and frequent confusion.

How to Help Someone With Alzheimer’s

If you or someone you know is showing the early signs of Alzheimer’s or dementia, you are not alone. Resources are available to help you learn more about the disease and treatment options. However, ignoring symptoms or pretending they do not exist is not the best way to deal with the condition and may lead to a more rapid progression of symptoms.

Here are some tips for caregivers of people with dementia.

  • Try to maintain a predictable daily routine each day.
  • Do things that the affected person enjoys doing.
  • Allow your loved ones with dementia to do as much for themselves as they would like to maintain a sense of independence and privacy.
  • Help your loved one write down appointments and events in a calendar.
  • Always be respectful and patient. Tell your loved ones what you are doing through each step while you help them eat, get dressed or bathe.
  • Buy loose-fitting clothing that is easy to put on and take off.

Try to be prepared for any unexpected outbursts or abrupt personality changes your loved one may experience while navigating this complicated disease. And make sure you understand Alzheimer’s vs. dementia differences so you know what to expect going forward and how to seek the proper treatment.

Home Office

Elder Care Alliance

1301 Marina Village Parkway
Suite 210
Alameda, CA 94501

Phone: (510) 630-2560

Fax: (510) 769-2735

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