Alzheimers And Dementia: What Is The Difference
We are all forgetful at times even more so as we age. Thats part of being human. However, frequent memory loss that interferes with daily life and increases the risk of harm can be a sign of Alzheimers disease or another form of dementia.
As a company that offers a variety of memory care services for seniors, our residents and their loved ones often wonder, Whats the difference between dementia and Alzheimers disease? The line can be blurry, so lets clarify some of the key differences between these two terms below.
Alzheimers And Dementia: What Are The Differences
I recently had a conversation with someone about aging and memory dysfunction. I found myself refering to Alzheimers and dementia interchangedly. It was only after the conversation was over that I reminded myself that Alzheimers and dementia are not quite the same thing. Lets explore that.
Are Alzheimers and dementia different diseases? Whats common and whats different about them? According to the U.S. Government, dementia is not a single disease, rather a collection of symptoms that can be caused by disorders that affect the brain.
Age-related dementiacharacterized by loss of a persons ability to think, remember, problem solve, or reasonis currently estimated to affect about 5 million individuals in the U.S. Alzheimers is the most common form of dementia.
Outlook For Alzheimers Disease
Alzheimers disease is one of the highest leading causes of death among senior citizens. Approximately one in three people, aged 65 and above, will die from Alzheimer’s disease or any other type of dementia. It will kill more people than breast and prostate cancer.
The life expectancy for patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease tends to vary depending on many factors average life expectancy is three to eleven years , but people can go on to live with Alzheimer’s for 20 years or more.
If the symptoms of Alzheimer’s show at the age of 75, they are likely to live for another seven years or so, post-diagnosis. But, if the symptoms affect someone around the age of 90 then they are likely to live for another three years, approximately.
Since Alzheimers is a progressive disease, the earlier the diagnosis is made and the earlier treatment begins, the better is the outlook for the patient.
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What Is Alzheimers Exactly
At the risk of being repetitive: Alzheimers is a disease , one that presents with dementia symptoms, and it is the most common form of dementia. Alzheimers is an irreversible, progressive disease, meaning it worsens as time goes on: What starts with misplacing ones keys can become an inability to understand ones context entirely.
Alzheimers disease tends to affect people over the age of 65, though it has been found in younger people, as well. Some analyses project that nearly 14 million Americans could have the disease by the year 2060. The symptoms of Alzheimers disease are dementia symptomsthe cognitive and psychological symptoms listed above.
First Signs Of Alzheimers Disease
The earliest symptomatic stage is called mild cognitive impairment, says Dr. Caselli. Early signs include:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life
- Challenges in planning or solving problems
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks
- New problems with words in speaking or writing
- Misplacing items and an inability to retrace steps
- Changes in mood and personality
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The Difference Between Alzheimer’s And Dementia
The main difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia is that Alzheimer’s is a disease, and dementia is not. Instead, it’s an umbrella term for a group of symptoms that includes memory loss, a decline in language and comprehension skills, a reduction in judgment skills, and the inability to think through tasks, such as finding your way home from the store, preparing a meal, or getting dressed.
Alzheimer’s, on the other hand, is a disease that causes this set of symptoms. Currently, there are more than five million people in the United States who have Alzheimer’s disease, and scientists predict that this number will increase to 14 million by 2050.
What Is Alzheimers And How Does It Progress
Alzheimers Disease progresses gradually, the different stages manifesting over more than a decade. There are three broad stages of progression: early, middle, and late-stage.
Individuals with early-stage of the disease stillhave their independence. They may still be actively working and interacting socially. Symptoms such as memory lapses, forgetting commonly used words, forgetting names of people they may have newly met, etc. may appear almost a decade after cognitive issues become obvious. Those closest to the individual may be the ones to notice these symptoms.
Here is a page from the Alzheimers Association, with resources for those who have been newly diagnosed with Alzheimers disease.
This stage can last a long time, even years. The disease symptoms become more prominent and the person may confuse words, show signs of frustration or anger, or display unusual behaviors such as not wanting to bathe. Other symptoms may include:
- Confusion about day or time
- Remembering personal information
- Trouble controlling the bladder or bowel movements
- Personality changes such as delusions or compulsive behavior
There is also the fear of individuals wandering away from home. Constant assistance will be required for daily activities, which can put stress on family caregivers.
Whats The Difference Between Dementia And Alzheimer’s Disease
Dr. Larry Lawhorne discusses the difference between dementia and Alzheimers disease. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.
A very common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, accounting for 40 to 60 percent of all cases of dementia. But there many causes of dementia, such as vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, normal pressure hydrocephalus and frontotemporal dementia. The most common after Alzheimer’s disease is vascular dementia. Vascular dementia occurs in a setting of high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and other cardiovascular diseases. While Alzheimer’s patients lose function slowly, people with vascular dementia lose their ability to remember and think in a step-wise progression.
Making a diagnosis can be complicated because now we think there is mixed dementia. Someone may be on his way to developing Alzheimer’s disease but may also have enough vascular risk factors to have vascular dementia, too. Lewy body dementia is an interesting and distinctive disorder. People with Lewy body dementia often first experience visual hallucinations. They may also have some movement disorder. They may have a little bit of tremor. They may have problems walking. People with Lewy body dementia are also very sensitive to antipsychotic medicines, which tend to make them much more unsteady.
Is There Treatment Available
At present there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. However, one group of drugs called cholinergeric drugs appears to be providing some temporary improvement in cognitive functioning for some people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.
Drugs can also be prescribed for secondary symptoms such as restlessness or depression or to help the person with dementia sleep better.
Community support is available for the person with Alzheimer’s disease, their families and carers. This support can make a positive difference to managing dementia. Dementia Australia provides support, information and counselling for people affected by dementia. Dementia Australia also aims to provide up-to-date information about drug treatments.
For more information contact the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.
For a range of books and videos contact our Library.
For advice, common sense approaches and practical strategies on the issues most commonly raised about dementia, read our Help Sheets.
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Forgetfulness That Disrupts Daily Life: The Difference Between Dementia And Alzheimers Disease
When someone shows signs of forgetfulness, its easy to jump to conclusions. Is it dementia? Alzheimers? And whats the difference? Well help you unravel these similar, but different terms. There is often misunderstanding about the difference between Alzheimers and the many forms of dementia, but diagnosis and good care depend on having knowledge of these conditions.
The Difference In Treatments For Dementia Vs Alzheimers
It is unlikely that a single drug or treatment option can treat dementia or Alzheimers. Most therapies focus on providing individuals with a little extra comfort and control.
FDA-approved drugs for Alzheimers that may also treat dementia symptoms include:
- Cholinesterase inhibitors
- Donepezil with memantine
Cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine regulate different chemical messengers in the brain to address Alzheimers symptoms in different ways.
However, dementia may be caused by more than just Alzheimers disease. If a doctor identifies a different root cause for dementia symptoms, he/she may prescribe a different treatment for that root cause.
Examples of treatments for non-Alzheimers dementia:
- Stress relief, for stress-induced cognitive decline
- Antidepressants, for depression-induced cognitive decline
- Sleep medicine, for cognitive decline related to sleep disturbances
- Mold remediation, for mold toxicity-related cognitive decline
- Regular exercise, which is shown to reduce the risk of dementia
Sadly, once Alzheimers has been diagnosed, management and a potential slowdown or stopping of symptoms is the best goal doctors and patients can hope to achieve. However, by optimizing brain health earlier in life , your chances of preventing the disease from ever taking hold go up exponentially.
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Keep Your Mind Active
An active mind may help lower the risk of dementia, so keep challenging yourself. Some examples would be:
- study something new, like a new language
- do puzzles and play games
- read challenging books
- learn to read music, take up an instrument, or start writing
- stay socially engaged: keep in touch with others or join group activities
Where Mild Cognitive Impairment Fits In
Diagnosing and determining the type of dementia a person has can also get tricky because some people dont have full-blown dementiathey have what doctors refer to as mild cognitive impairment or MCI. With dementia, Dr. Scharre says, you often need other people to do activities for you that you used to be able to manage on your own , but with MCI, you can still do those things even if you need a bit of prompting. So youre forgetful, youre less efficient, and maybe you need verbal clues, but you can still do the function yourselfthats MCI, says Dr. Scharre.
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How Are They Different
When a person is diagnosed with dementia, they are being diagnosed with a set of symptoms. This is similar to someone who has a sore throat. Their throat is sore but it is not known what is causing that particular symptom. It could be allergies, a common cold or strep throat. Similarly, when someone has dementia they are experiencing symptoms without being told what is causing those symptoms.
Another major difference between the two is that Alzheimers is not a reversible disease. It is degenerative and incurable at this time. Some forms of dementia, such as a drug interaction or a vitamin deficiency, are actually reversible or temporary.
Once a cause of dementia is found, appropriate treatment and counseling can begin. Until a proper diagnosis is made, the best approach to any dementia is communication, engagement and loving care.
Signs Of Alzheimers Disease
There is some overlap between dementia and Alzheimers symptoms, but there are also a few differences. Alzheimers disease is a name for a more targeted disease, so the symptoms are more specific.
Alzheimers begins with trouble remembering and confusion over places, times, and people. Over time, disorientation grows and the person will experience mood changes. In addition, they will often be suspicious of people around them.
They might also have trouble with motor skills specifically walking and swallowing.
Theyll experience impaired judgment and apathy, often resulting in depression. Unlike other forms of dementia, people with Alzheimers are unlikely to have involuntary movement or trouble with balance. The primary symptoms involve memory and cognition.
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Stage : Advanced Decline
The fifth stage of Alzheimers disease is when the sufferers begin to depend on others. They may not be able to remember where they live and so should not be out alone, and they may begin to need help with basic motor skills like getting dressed.
While childhood memories are often still intact, people experiencing stage five will have significant trouble remembering their more recent contexts.
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Memory And Physical Health
According to Dr. Candler, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, accounting for nearly 60 to 80 percent of all forms of dementia that are diagnosed annually. “In most cases, patients who suffer from Alzheimer’s initially only experience memory trouble, but are otherwise able to fully function physically until the end stages of the disease,” she says. “Other types of dementia, like Parkinson’s, lead to significant physical complications that can be present in earlier stages of the disease .”
Epidemiologic Differences And Ad
Numerous studies have been conducted that examine differences in the prevalence and incidence of AD across ethnoracial groups, particularly whites, African Americans, and Hispanics or Latinos, with varied results. Although there does not yet exist a consensus, a growing body of evidence suggests that both the prevalence and the incidence of AD may vary substantially between different ethnoracial groups. Demirovic and colleagues found a significant difference in the prevalence of AD among African American men and white non-Hispanic men in a community-based study of one region of Florida. In a separate seven-year community-based study, Tang and colleagues sampled and interviewed Medicare recipients ages 65 years and older in New York City. They found that the cumulative incidence of AD to 90 years of age was approximately two times greater among African American and Caribbean Hispanic individuals than among white non-Hispanic individuals. These analyses controlled for medical history, such as history of heart disease, stroke, and cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disorders, as well as other demographic factors, such as level of education and literacy. Nevertheless, the lack of a population-based sample in these studies hinders the generalizability of these results.
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Risk Factors For Dementia
Progressive dementias are part of a disease process and can’t be prevented, but you may be able to reduce your risk of some other types of dementia by taking these steps:
- Reduce your risk of brain injury. Wear helmets when participating in activities that could result in a head injury. Wear your seat belt when in a motor vehicle. Seek medical help if you do have a head injury or suspect you might have a concussion, particularly if you already had a previous injury.
- Watch for signs and symptoms of infection and seek treatment as soon as possible if you think an infection is present.
- Report any drug side effects to your doctor or pharmacist.
- See your doctor if there’s a change in your mental state so you can be evaluated for possible causes.
Stage : Severe Decline
People in stage six of Alzheimers disease cant live independently. They need professional supervision as they will be unable to bathe themselves or use the restroom. They may be in a state of confusion or fear about their surroundings more often than not, and may not recognize the faces of even close loved ones.
Its no surprise that this is when psychological symptoms are very obvious, as well: sufferers are likely to have substantial personality shifts towards depression, anti-socialness, paranoia, and anxiety.
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What Is Dementia Exactly
Dementia is a syndrome, not a disease. This means that dementia is a set of symptoms that does not necessarily have one precise cause it can have multiple causes or no defined cause.
The symptoms described by dementia are both cognitive and psychological.
According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of dementia can be separated into two categories: cognitive and psychological.
Walking And Physical Movement
Vascular dementia: Vascular dementia is often accompanied by some physical challenge. If a person has a stroke, they may have limited movement on one side of her body. Both the cognitive and physical impairments related to vascular dementia usually develop at the same time since they are often the result of a sudden condition like a stroke.
Alzheimers: Often, mental abilities like memory or judgment decline initially, and then as Alzheimer’s progresses into the middle stages, physical abilities like balance or walking show some deterioration.
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