Understanding the Difference Between Dementia and Alzheimer’s

By January 9, 2017Alzheimer's, Dementia

Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are two common and very significant memory issues that can occur as we age. While both share many of the same characteristics, they are actually two different forms of cognitive decline.

Unlike Alzheimer’s, dementia is not a disease, but instead a collection of symptoms that affect the brain causing challenges with communication and the ability to perform tasks. Alzheimer’s, on the other hand, is a progressive disease that impairs the brain and its function over time. It is a form of dementia that affects memory and language in particular.

Below, Bayshore Memory Care outlines several of the distinctions to help you understand the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Dementia

According to Dementia Care Central, health professionals often discuss dementia in stages, which helps physicians determine the best treatment approach and helps caregivers better understand what is going on with their loved one. Sometimes a stage is referred to as early-, middle- or late-stage dementia, but often a more exact stage is assigned, based on a person’s symptoms.

The goal is to understand what is causing the symptoms, and then address how to treat the cause. If caused by a drug interaction or vitamin deficiency, for example, dementia may be treatable. Possible causes of dementia include:

Some early warning signs of possible dementia include:

  • Subtle short-term memory loss, such as forgetting where you left an item, forgetting what you were supposed to do on a given day, or struggling to remember why you entered a room
  • Difficulty explaining something or finding the right words to express yourself
  • Changes in mood, or depression
  • Losing interest in hobbies or activities, or not wanting to spend time with friends and family—emotionally flat
  • Confusion, such as difficulty remembering faces, finding the right words or interacting normally with people
  • Difficulty following along with conversations or TV programs
  • Deterioration in the sense of direction and spatial orientation, such as not recognizing once-familiar landmarks and forgetting regularly used directions
  • Repeating daily tasks like shaving, or collecting items obsessively
  • Struggling to adapt to change. The forgetfulness and confusion that comes with early stages of dementia can cause a sufferer to crave routine and fear change.

Mild forgetfulness and memory problems are a normal part of aging and can occur due to other factors, such as fatigue, stress or poor diet. However, if you or your loved one experience a number of dementia symptoms, talk with your physician. Early onset can occur as young as the 30s, 40s or 50s, and with early diagnosis and treatment, you can slow the progressions and maintain mental function.

Alzheimer’s Disease

It’s estimated that between 50 and 70 percent of those with dementia have Alzheimer’s disease. In order to accurately diagnose Alzheimer’s disease, a doctor will perform a variety of tests including blood tests, brain scans and psychological exams. Symptoms of Alzheimer’s include:

Cognitive:

mental decline, difficulty thinking and understanding, confusion in the evening hours, delusion, disorientation, forgetfulness, making things up, mental confusion, difficulty concentrating, inability to create new memories, inability to do simple math, or inability to recognize common things

Behavioral:

aggression, agitation, difficulty with self-care, irritability, meaningless repetition of own words, personality changes, lack of restraint, or wandering and getting lost

Mood:

anger, apathy, general discontent, loneliness, or mood swings

Psychological (issues that often accompany Alzheimer’s):

depression, hallucination, or paranoia

Physical:

loss of appetite or restlessness

Also common:

inability to combine muscle movements or jumbled speech

Contact your doctor immediately if your loved one are experiencing any combination of the symptoms above. The sooner a diagnosis is made, the sooner you can get back to living your healthiest, vibrant life!

Bayshore Memory Care in Naples, Fla., is a state-of-the-art community designed solely for individuals with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. We combine the best of new design, personalized and specialized services, and high-end amenities in a refreshingly elegant setting. Our Heartfelt Connections™ Memory Care Program is nationally recognized for offering people with Alzheimer’s disease, and other diseases that affect the mind, the care and resources they need to maintain physical and emotional well-being and a high quality of life.

The next generation in senior living memory care is right here in Naples—it’s a beautiful place to live.

For more information regarding the services offered at Bayshore, visit our Contact Us page, or call 239-213-9370.

Sources: Mayo Clinic

Dementia Care Central

Healthline