Dementia vs. Alzheimer’s: Make Sure You Know the Difference

While similar in some respects, dementia and Alzheimer’s are not the same thing, and it’s important to know the differences in these two medical terms. It is important for caregivers, family members, and loved ones to know the difference between these two so that an accurate medical history can be maintained for the best possible care and treatment.

Dementia

Dementia is a syndrome, or a group of different symptoms and conditions that affect brain function on a general level. The conditions present in a person with dementia include memory loss, trouble with reasoning, decreased attention span, lapses in judgment, mood changes, disorientation and increased gullibility, to name a few.

While Alzheimer’s disease is a leading cause of dementia, dementia can be the result of many other diseases and conditions including Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, or Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (mad cow disease), and vascular dementia/disease. Dementia can be the result of issues and problems with the neurological system, cardiovascular system, improper protein buildup, and other arrays of conditions.

Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s is a specific disease and form of dementia, as opposed to a general grouping of symptoms and conditions, though it is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for 60% to 80% of all dementia cases. Alzheimer’s is caused by protein and plaque buildup in a person’s brain, resulting in nerve signals being blocked and nerve cells being destroyed. There are a number of early signals for Alzheimer’s, and over time, a person’s memory fades, they become confused, susceptible to mood swings among other changes. Unlike some forms of general dementia, Alzheimer’s disease cannot be reversed and there is no current cure.

Interchanging “Alzheimer’s” with “Dementia” could rule out many other causes for a person’s dementia, particularly those related to problems in areas other than a person’s nervous system, like vascular dementia. Miscommunicating a person’s Alzheimer’s or general dementia may result in that person losing out on important treatment.

Take Action

Vigilantly monitoring a loved one’s mental and physical condition as they age is key to early detection of both dementia and Alzheimer’s. The sooner that symptoms are detected, the sooner that doctors are able to diagnose correctly the exact cause of the symptoms, and the sooner your loved one can start receiving the right care.

However, there are a number of lifestyle changes that you can make to help prevent the onset of both dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, including eating and sleeping better, socializing, and exercise. If you suspect that a loved one or family member is starting to show symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s do not hesitate to relay this information to them and start getting them treatment.


Trevor McDonald is a freelance content writer who has a passion for writing and is currently writing for Martinson & Beason, PC. He’s written a variety of education, travel, health, and lifestyle articles for many different companies. In his free time, you can find him running with his dog, playing his guitar or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable.

Written by Guest Author
The Caregiver Space accepts contributions from experts for The Caregiver's Toolbox and provides a platform for all caregivers in Caregiver Stories. Please read our author guidelines for more information and use our contact form to submit guest articles.

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12 Comments

  1. It all has the same outcome

    Reply
  2. It all has the same outcome

    Reply
  3. Dementia is an umbrella term for many neurological disorders, one of which is Alzheimer’s Disease.
    My husband has Frontotemporal Dementia, an entirely different form.

    Reply
  4. Dementia is an umbrella term for many neurological disorders, one of which is Alzheimer’s Disease.
    My husband has Frontotemporal Dementia, an entirely different form.

    Reply
  5. Tell the staff in nursing homes that. Many think it’s one size fits all.

    Reply
    • But in the end, it is! Symptoms and the horrible slow goodbye is the same.

      Reply
  6. Tell the staff in nursing homes that. Many think it’s one size fits all.

    Reply
    • But in the end, it is! Symptoms and the horrible slow goodbye is the same.

      Reply
  7. This is still misleading. Why can’t you at least say Alzheimer’s is the most common form of Dementia, in the first section that most people read

    Reply
  8. This is still misleading. Why can’t you at least say Alzheimer’s is the most common form of Dementia, in the first section that most people read

    Reply
    • Actually, due to all the ways a person can gain dementia, the truth is, they are about the same, based off my own experience of over 20 years caring for my father. Over-diagnosing those with the Alzheimer label is frequent. We went through it with my father when he went loopy on us in his late 40’s back in 1992. Then they wanted him to be bi-polar. He wasn’t reacting to the medications properly. It wasn’t until ENT put a camera down my dad’s nose to find out why he kept having chest infections and was walking worse. Turns out, his condition is dueto nearly invisible mini-strokes. This was found in 2016. They did a contrast MRI, and now they can ‘see’ the scar tissues riddled through his brain, and shrinkage as if he was nearly in his 90’s, and he’s currently 74 years old. What the genuine number is of either is unknown, since one is a disease, while the other is a grouping to simplify a complicated situation where they do not have enough information. We still have so much to learn to help us understand how to help folks in regards to their brain health and how to handle brain damage. I understand how you are not pleased with the article flow, but the article is still a good article. Most people assume senility, dementia, and alzheimer’s are one and the same. They assume all brain damage is the same. This is all the article is attempting to do: dispel the assumptions about brain health and deterioration and motivate a person to research their personal situation. I could go on about how not having a thyroid leads to brain deterioration, which is in the span of the group which is labeled ‘dementia.’ Grey’s disease, etc, iirr. Or how you can end up with seizures or strokes in your sleep, and never know it until you are in your 40’s or 50’s. But this is not why the article exists. Again, it is a motivator article. A reality check, explaining – Hey, these two things are not alike at all. Get active, learn more! This is it.

      Reply
    • Brieya thanks for taking the time to be informative. I greatly appreciate your response

      Reply

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