Tuesday Tips for Caregivers ~ Alzheimer’s vs. Dementia: What’s the Difference?

Tuesday Tips for Caregivers ~ Alzheimer’s vs. Dementia: What’s the Difference?

Alzheimer’s vs. Dementia: What’s the Difference?

On ElderCare’s blog, we talk a lot about dementia and Alzheimer’s without really going into the differences between these two terms. In this post, we will provide definitions for Alzheimer’s and dementia, what the differences are, and what are the various characteristics that define degenerative neurological disorders. By the end of this post, you will have a better understanding of Alzheimer’s, as well as dementia more broadly.

What is Dementia?

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, dementia is a general group of symptoms that pertain to decline in cognitive function, like memory, reasoning, and other skills related to thinking.[1] There are several types of dementia, and sometimes people can have more than one kind of dementia at the same time. Thus, dementia is a class of several kinds of degenerative brain disorders. Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia. Other forms of dementia include Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and Lewy Body dementia. What distinguishes different kinds of dementia is the degenerative impact the specific disorder has on certain parts of the brain.

Contributing risk factors that may lead to dementia include stroke, cardiovascular diseases, drug and alcohol use, depression, and certain illnesses, like diabetes.[2][3] These risk factors can be offset by factors you can control, like good nutrition, avoiding smoking, reducing alcohol use, getting regular exercise, getting good sleep or addressing sleep problems like sleep apnea, and addressing mental health issues like depression. While it is extremely difficult to know individual health outcomes, taking charge of the risk factors that are in your control can be helpful.

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia and it is the most common kind. The Alzheimer’s Association states roughly 60 to 80 percent of all dementia cases are Alzheimer’s cases.[4] What differentiates Alzheimer’s from other forms of dementia are the mechanisms underlying the disorder. There are protein structures that become plaques and tangles in the brains of those living with Alzheimer’s. These plaques and tangles diminish normal functioning of the brain, reducing the capacity for the brain to send signals to other parts of the brain and body.[5]

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s include memory impairment, declines in word recollection, impaired reasoning, forgetting people and names, movement difficulties, and personality changes. Alzheimer’s progressively gets worse, but early treatment can slow the speed of cognitive decline. Currently, there is no known cure for the disorder.

If you suspect that a loved one is experiencing memory problems that are impacting their day-to-day lives, then it may not hurt to help them make an appointment with a doctor to get evaluated.

If you have any questions, please call ElderCare at Home at 888-285-0093 or visit our website for more information.

[1] Source: Alzheimer’s Association
[2] Source: Healthline
[3] Source: Mayo Clinic
[4] Source: Alzheimer’s Association
[5] Source: National Institute on Aging

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