Senior Caregiving Blog

Dementia vs Alzheimer’s: What’s the Difference?

Dementia vs Alzheimer’s: What’s the Difference?

Approximately 5.8 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease and on a global scale, 47.5 million people have dementia. While they are not limited to older people, as a general rule, they tend to have their onset at a later stage of one’s life.

Now dementia and Alzheimer’s are two illnesses that are often confused, due to their overlapping similarities. However, while they are very similar, they are definitely not the same.

Where dementia is a blanket term for several dysfunctions in mental ability or its deterioration. Alzheimer’s, on the other hand, is a type of dementia that specifically affects an individual’s memory.

Let’s look a little deeper into dementia vs Alzheimer’s to understand the nuances of these two syndromes that make them different from each other.

Dementia vs Alzheimer’s: The Signs and the Symptoms

Since dementia is a blanket term to encapsulate the loss of a wide range of mental functions. The symptoms may vary depending on the type of dementia one has. Some examples include:

  • Vascular dementia: loss of blood flow to the brain, strokes
  • Frontotemporal: dementia that is a consequence of damage to the frontal/ temporal lobes
  • Lewy body dementia: “Lewy bodies” or protein deposits in the brain, affecting memory and movement
  • Mixed dementia: a combination of the 2 or more types of dementia

Some of the common symptoms of dementia include anxiety, anhedonia or a low mood, repetitive behavior, disturbances in sleeping patterns, psychosis, aimless wandering, poor hygiene, confusion or disorientation, and inappropriate social or sexual behavior.

How is Alzheimer’s Different?

Where dementia is an umbrella term, Alzheimer’s covers specific dysfunctions in one’s mental abilities. While both may share common symptoms, here are a few examples of symptoms that are a little more specific to Alzheimer’s:

  • Inability to remember previous events
  • A decline in short term memory
  • Paranoia or aggressive behavior
  • Difficulty in performing normal functions like sleeping, walking or swallowing

You may also find it increasingly difficult to communicate with someone with both, Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Getting the Right Treatment

Unfortunately, there are no known cures for Alzheimer’s. There are some forms of dementia, like vascular dementia that have been proven to be reversible in the past, however, they come with side-effects of their own. However, this syndrome remains largely and tragically, irreversible.

While this might be disheartening to read, it is important to note that the symptoms of both can still be managed and treated.

There are some excellent medications available that help manages symptoms, especially for those with psychosis or psychotic tendencies. Additionally, treating the associated depression, insomnia or anxiety separately with medication and personal therapy can also help alleviate the symptoms in older patients.

In order to get the best results, it is important to approach a psychiatrist who specializes in older patients and seniors.

A few lifestyle changes like specialized diets, regular social activity among peers and physical activity can be very healthy for aging patients.

Making Life a Little Easier

Whatever their differences, when it comes to dementia vs Alzheimer’s their effects are universally heartbreaking. However, this does not mean those suffering cannot have a decent life.

If you know anyone who is diagnosed with either of these, you can consider hiring specialized caregivers to take care of your loved ones.

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