When you hear someone say “dementia,” you probably think of forgetfulness, confusion, and other signs that your loved one has lost his or her cognitive abilities. You may also think of Alzheimer’s disease—and if so, it’s time for an Alzheimer’s vs dementia education. Here are some tips to help you identify the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia:
Alzheimer’s Is A Disease, Dementia Isn’t
Alzheimer’s disease is a specific type of dementia, but it’s not the only one. Dementia is generally defined as a loss of cognitive functioning (thinking skills) that gets worse over time and interferes with daily living.
Dementia can be caused by many different diseases or injuries to the brain, including Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Alzheimer’s is considered to be the most common form of dementia in older adults, affecting nearly 50% of those 85 years old or older.
Alzheimer’s Is Progressive, Which Means It Gets Worse Over Time
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease. As the disease progresses, its symptoms get worse over time. When you have symptoms of Alzheimer’s, it can be difficult to tell if they are getting worse. However, if you notice new problems in memory or thinking that seem different from what you had before, this could be a sign that your Alzheimer’s is progressing.
The symptoms of Alzheimer’s include:
- Memory loss disrupts daily life and activities, such as forgetting conversations or not recognizing family members.
- Language problems include trouble finding words or understanding what others are saying.
- Disorientation, such as getting lost in familiar places or not knowing the date or season.
- Decreased reasoning and judgment, including poor decision-making and financial management skills, which can also affect a person’s ability to perform simple tasks like balancing a checkbook.
- Decreased concentration, focus, and attention span—for example, it becomes difficult to finish reading a book because you get distracted easily by other stimuli around you (dogs barking). You might have difficulty remembering your grocery list when shopping for groceries at the store (which is why I always do it on my phone!).
Symptoms Of Dementia Include:
- Deterioration of memory and thinking skills, including language, speaking, understanding, recognition, and recall problems.
- Problems with reasoning, planning, and problem-solving.
- Problems with vision, hearing, and attention.
- Problems with organization, planning, and time management.
- Changes in personality or behavior that may be severe enough to affect daily living activities
Another key difference between Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is the treatment. While it’s true that there is no cure for either, there are treatments available for people with dementia that can help slow its progression and improve quality of life.
Alzheimer’s disease can’t be treated because the brain cells are already dead by the time symptoms show up. However, there are things you can do to keep your brain healthy as long as possible:
- Exercise regularly
- Eat healthy foods
- Keep your mind active using new learning experiences or activities like puzzles or games (try Lumosity!)
There are many treatment options for people with dementia. The most common types of treatment include medication for behavioral issues, speech therapy for language disorders, and physical therapy to help improve mobility and balance problems.
The bottom line is that dementia and Alzheimer’s are not the same. Dementia is an umbrella term for cognitive decline, while Alzheimer’s is a specific disease. In addition, many different types of dementia can have very different causes and symptoms. Because of this, it’s important to know the difference between these two conditions so you can get the right treatment for your loved one who has either one or both.