Alzheimer's and Dementia: What's the Difference

Dementia occurs for a variety of reasons - one of which is Alzheimer's disease.
Posted by The Arbors on Jan 4, 2019 8:00:00 AM

Elderly couple keeping each other on the right track by putting reminders on sticky notes

Your aging loved one was recently diagnosed with dementia. If you’re like most people, you probably think of Alzheimer’s disease when you first hear the word “dementia.” 

However, dementia is an umbrella term for the disease through which cognitive function and the ability to perform everyday activities undergo a deterioration. 

Indeed, Alzheimer’s disease falls underneath that umbrella, as do vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, Huntington’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. That’s why it is important to educate yourself about the disease.

Types of Dementia

Dementia occurs for a variety of reasons — one of which is Alzheimer’s disease. The reason the terms “dementia” and “Alzheimer’s” are often used in place of each other is that Alzheimer’s disease accounts for an estimated 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases.

Although Alzheimer's disease is the most well-known and common form of dementia, not everyone with dementia has Alzheimer's disease. There are many other different types and causes of dementia, including:

Symptoms of Dementia

Dementia isn’t just about memory loss, such as forgetting someone’s name or where you parked. Although a common symptom of dementia is a decline in memory, there are other symptoms that impact an individual’s ability to perform everyday activities independently.

For a person to be diagnosed with dementia, a doctor must find that they have two or three cognitive areas in decline. Common symptoms include:

  • Forgetfulness
  • Less motivation and lack of initiative
  • Changes in thinking skills
  • Poor judgment and reasoning skills
  • Decreased concentration and attention span
  • Disorientation and/or decreased spatial awareness
  • Changes in language and communication skills
  • Mood changes, such as depression and/or anxiety

Treatment of Dementia

Although forgetfulness and memory problems are normal parts of aging, you shouldn’t ignore these symptoms. With treatment and early diagnosis, you can slow the progression of the disease and maintain mental function. The treatments may include medications, cognitive training, and therapy.

However, dementia symptoms will progress over time. For some people, dementia progresses rapidly. For others, it takes years to reach an advanced stage. In the mild stages, your loved one may be able to perform their daily routines without difficulty. By the moderate stages, they might start to have trouble doing routine tasks that they always did. In the severe stages, however, they will need to have help with day-to-day activities. 

It’s important to develop a plan with your loved one while they are able to participate that identifies goals for future care. You'll need to consider financial and legal issues, safety and daily living concerns, and long-term care options.

How do you know when it is the right time to consider moving your loved one to a specialized memory care community? The answer is not going to be the same for everybody, but there are signs you can watch for.

To learn more, download our eBook When Is the Right Time for Memory Care?, a guide for family caregivers on how to know when it’s the right time to consider moving an elderly parent or loved one to a memory care community.

From Diagnosis to Decision

Topics: Assisted Living, Memory Care