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. However, Alzheimer’s and dementia are not the same thing. If you or a loved one are exhibiting symptoms of dementia, you may be wondering how to tell Alzheimer’s vs dementia. Why are the two conditions different? How do they differ from each other?
While you may have a lot of questions about these conditions, you can start learning now, to ensure that you give your family member the best care possible. We at Elder Care Alliance seek to clear up the confusion surrounding Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in this guide. Here is what you should know about the two conditions, their primary causes, and how they differ, that way you can properly care for your loved ones.
Alzheimer’s vs Dementia
In short, dementia is a set of symptoms that affect cognitive function, such as memory, problem-solving skills, speaking ability, and behavior. Dementia is not a specific disease but is a condition caused by other diseases. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. It is a specific condition that can cause brain damage that produces dementia symptoms which can impact your loved one’s quality of life.
Dementia: What is Dementia vs. Alzheimer’s?
Dementia is a term that generally describes declining cognitive abilities (including thinking difficulties and memory loss) and includes Alzheimer’s disease. 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
Currently, there is no known cure for dementia. However, 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.
What Other Types of Dementia Are There?
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. Lewy-body dementia often comes as either dementia with Lewy bodies or Parkinson’s disease dementia.
One of the least common types is frontotemporal dementia, which is caused by various diseases, that affect the patient’s frontal or temporal lobes, or the front or sides of the brain. Mixed dementia is also a possibility and occurs when someone has symptoms from multiple types of dementia. For example, they could have symptoms from Lewy-body dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s: Alzheimer’s vs. Dementia Differences
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.
Alzheimer’s is a physical illness that damages the brain. Unfortunately, it takes years for the disease to worsen to the point where it causes symptoms. Early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease include changes in reasoning and thinking skills, problems with memory, and difficulty learning. These often don’t impact a person’s ability to perform daily tasks independently. Throughout disease progression, symptoms worsen and may consist of severe behavior changes and frequent confusion.
Causes: Alzheimer’s vs Dementia Difference
The Alzheimer’s vs dementia difference in causes are vast because dementia is a set of symptoms, while Alzheimer’s is a specific condition. Alzheimer’s is a cause of dementia. It is caused by many factors, but a key part of the disease is a build-up of amyloid and tau in the brain, causing tangles and plaques. These prevent the brain from working optimally.
Alzheimer’s disease damages the brain. Mainly, it causes parts of the brain to shrink. It also limits the production of chemicals that send signals throughout the brain. This is what causes the dementia symptoms. There is no cure for this disease right now. However, treatments can help minimize symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.
How can you tell if a person has Alzheimer’s or dementia?
Before you start searching online too much for “what is dementia vs. Alzheimer’s?” take your family member to the doctor for an assessment. If your family member has dementia, the doctor will try to tell you if it is Alzheimer’s or another type. However, other types can be hard to discern. That’s especially true if the condition is still in the early stages. Fortunately, it is not urgent to know what type of dementia they have to start care.
Understand Alzheimer’s vs Dementia to Help Your Family
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.
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 so you know what to expect going forward and how to seek the proper treatment. Contact us if you are better off putting your loved one in a community for people with dementia.