When we talk about Alzheimer’s or dementia, you’ll often hear both terms used almost interchangeably. It’s understandable, considering the fact that they share a variety of symptoms.
But while there’s definitely some overlap between the two, they both have vastly different meanings.
One is a syndrome—a grouping of specific symptoms that don’t have a definitive diagnosis. The other is a progressive disease of the brain that causes a drastic decline in cognitive function.
So, which is which?
The difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia is significant.
Let’s break it all down.
Alzheimer’s vs. Dementia
While they’re similar in many ways, distinguishing Alzheimer’s from dementia is critical when it comes to management and treatment.
Here’s an overview of each and an outline of what you need to know to provide the best care for an aging loved one struggling with memory issues:
Dementia is an umbrella term, not a specific disease, under which a number of diseases (including Alzheimer’s) can fall:
- Lewy body dementia
- Frontotemporal dementia
- Vascular dementia
- Parkinson’s disease dementia
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
- Huntington’s disease
What’s surprising about this, though, is that people can have more than one type of dementia. It’s known as mixed dementia, and diagnosis can only be confirmed in an autopsy.
Even more surprising? The World Health Organization says that 55 million people worldwide live with one form or another of dementia.
Now, it’s easy to dismiss the early warning signs of dementia, which often begin with simple episodes of spaciness. Misplaced keys or a forgotten anniversary—that kind of thing.
As dementia progresses, though, this mild level of forgetfulness evolves, growing into a more consistent problem. Conversations require multiple rehashes, names and faces start to fade, and personal hygiene seems to become less of a priority.
People struggling with this affliction may even start to make questionable decisions that put themselves and others at risk.
In the most advanced stage, it can drastically impact an individual’s ability to remain independent. It’s a serious condition that places an enormous burden on families, caregivers, and the person living with the syndrome.
Common symptoms include the following:
- A decline in memory
- Changes in thinking skills
- Poor judgment and reasoning skills
- Decreased focus and attention
- Changes in language and communication skills
Alzheimer’s disease—a brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills— is the most common form of dementia and accounts for around 70% of cases.
To put that percentage into perspective, that equates to more than 5 million people in the United States struggling with this disease.
Unfortunately, that number is likely to increase over time without a cure.
We still don’t fully understand what causes Alzheimer’s (the consensus remains that a singular cause is highly unlikely). Still, as scientists start taking strides towards finding answers, we’re hopeful their research could lead to more treatments and preventative methods.
One thing we know for sure is that age is the primary risk factor.
For many folks, late-onset type symptoms usually first appear in their mid-60s. Early-onset Alzheimer’s occurs between a person’s 30s and mid-60s and is very rare.
The disease starts in the hippocampus—the part of the mind that helps people process and retrieve memories—before progressing to the brain’s cerebral cortex and other areas.
That’s when language, reasoning, and social skills start to deteriorate.
And that’s when we need to seek some level of outside support or care.
Memory Care at The Moments
As you can see, the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia is pretty drastic. And while we’re all still waiting on a definitive cure, treatment is still a viable option.
At The Moments, we specialize in caring for individuals with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
We’re all about helping our residents live more fulfilling lives through programming specific to each individual’s needs and abilities.
Taking our commitment to specialized care even further, we combine 5-star hospitality standards with high-acuity specialized clinical services. Throw in a customized dining program and daily housekeeping, and you’ll see that residents here are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.
Our staff members are trained, attentive, and highly knowledgeable—and they’re all dedicated to providing exceptional care for each and every individual that stays at our facility.
For more information, visit us at our website.