It’s not uncommon to hear the terms “dementia” and “Alzheimer’s” used synonymously. But the truth is, the two terms are not fully interchangeable. If someone you love is suffering from a form of decreased cognitive function or memory loss, it is important to get a correct diagnosis in order to provide the best long-term care.
So, what are the differences between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease? To put it simply, an individual with Alzheimer’s disease has dementia, but not all people with dementia have Alzheimer’s disease.
What is Dementia?
Dementia is not a disease. It is an umbrella term used to describe a group of symptoms that are associated with a decline in thinking, remembering and reasoning that interfere with daily life. These symptoms can vary widely from person to person, but often include problems with memory, attention, communication and judgment.
Dementia is caused by the loss of healthy nerve cells in the brain. All people experience some loss of neurons as they age, but for people with dementia, the loss is much more severe.
The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. Other conditions that can cause dementia include:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Lewy Body Dementia
- Huntington’s disease
- Vascular Dementia
- Traumatic brain injury
Dementia most commonly affects the older population and is the leading cause of disability and dependency among the elderly, according to Alzheimer’s Disease International.
What is Alzheimer's Disease?
While dementia is the collective name for various forms of memory loss disorders, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association states that the progressive disease accounts for an estimated 60 to 80 percent of cases. People 65 and over are most likely to develop Alzheimer’s, however, it is possible to develop it earlier in life. This is known as young-onset dementia.
While more research is needed, researchers believe that Alzheimer’s is caused by a buildup of proteins in the brain. The accumulation of these proteins produces abnormal structures called plaques and tangles, which causes nerve cells to die. The loss of neurons and brain tissue leads to a decrease in the efficiency of the chemical messengers used to send information between brain cells.
Early signs of Alzheimer’s may include:
- Difficulty remembering names or events
- Trouble concentrating or completing familiar tasks
- Difficulty communicating and finding words
- Confusion with regards to location or space
- Poor judgment and decision-making
- Major personality and behavior changes
Over time, Alzheimer’s disease advances to affect most areas of a person’s brain. Symptoms progress to the point that problems with memory, thinking and behavior interfere with everyday tasks.
Making a Diagnosis
In summary, Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia, but not everyone with dementia has Alzheimer’s. If you suspect you or someone you love has a form of dementia, talk to your doctor right away. Your doctor can conduct a thorough examination to determine the exact cause of symptoms. Currently there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease and other various forms of dementia, but early detection and treatment can help slow the progression of symptoms.
Finding Care For Your Loved Ones
If your loved one has been diagnosed with a memory disease such as Alzheimer's or dementia, a memory care community can help you. Memory Care communities provide the safety, engagement, and medical care your loved one requires as they age. There are many quality and accredited Memory Care Communities such as:
- Alexander Guest House in Oak Ridge, TN
- Antebellum Arlington Place in Macon, GA
- Antebellum Grove in Warner Robins, GA
- Antebellum James Burgess in Suwanee, GA
- Ashbrook Village in Villa Rica, GA
- Azalea Estates of Monroe in Monroe, LA
- Azalea Estates of New Iberia in New Iberia, LA
- Carriage House Inn in Shelbyville, TN
- Clemson Heritage Senior Living in Clemson, SC
- Country Gardens Union City in Union City, GA
- Hope Center Dacula in Dacula, GA
- LaGrange Heritage Senior Living in LaGrange, GA
- Oakwood Senior Living in Knoxville, TN
- River Oaks Place Lenoir City in Lenoir City, TN
- The Marsh at Carolina Park in Mount Pleasant, SC