Understanding Alzheimer's vs. Dementia

Posted: 9/17/2020 8:00 AM by Interim HealthCare
It's very common for people to use Alzheimer's and dementia interchangeably. For family members and others who love individuals suffering from one of these debilitating conditions, the nuances may seem trivial. In fact, the notion of "understanding Alzheimer's vs. dementia" may seem almost unnecessary or confusing in and of itself. But when battling either of these conditions, knowledge IS power. 

It's understandable that so many people think -- and worry about -- Alzheimer's. It's the sixth-highest cause of death in America, with over 120,000 deaths per year. 

September is World Alzheimer's Awareness Month, which presents the perfect opportunity to succinctly clear up any confusion or misconceptions around Alzheimer's vs. dementia. Most importantly, understanding the differences can help you better understand your loved one and provide better care.

Understanding Alzheimer's vs. Dementia: The Definitions

This is a tricky topic to break into similarlities and differences, which you would ordinarily see in this type of post. That's because the term "dementia" is really more of a general term than a disease unto itself. Dementia is a term that's applied to any cognitive decline that impacts daily life. It represents a combination of symptoms that impact areas like memory, emotions, thinking and more. 

While some cognitive decline can often be attributed to the natural progression of age; however, dementia is NOT a normal sign of aging. 

There are many different types of dementia, and they are caused by many different things. There is even Mixed Dementia, which literally means more than one type of dementia is impacting the brain.  This is where Alzheimer's comes into play. 

Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia

An Introduction to Alzheimers

Alzheimer's disease was first identified by Dr. Alois Alzheimer over 100 years ago -- in 1906! Dr. Alzheimer recognized the two primary indicators of the disease. First, plaque deposits that are scattered throughout the brain and are ultimately toxic to it. Second, tangles that interfere with the brain's processes, and which eventually "choke" living brain cells. As the disease progresses and more brain cells die, parts of the brain actually shrink as a result. 

Dementia symptoms result from the plaque deposits and tangles, getting progressively worse over time as more brain cells are killed. Early in the disease, the part of the brain associated with learning new things is damaged, learning to forgetfulness and many of the common symptoms most often associated with Alzheimer's disease. Eventually, individuals with Alzheimer's have more severe symptoms, including difficulty sleeping, swallowing and walking.

While there are some medications and treatments that can address some of the symptoms of Alzheimer's, there is sadly no cure, nor is there any way to slow down its progress.

Some forms of dementia may respond to treatment; however, dementia is not reversible in a majority of cases. 

For families and individuals facing Alzheimer's and other dementias, extra help can be especially critical in your battle. Since Alzheimer's and dementia are progressive, your ability to provide everything for your loved ones becomes more and more difficult, and enacts more of a toll on you and your own health. 

Here at Interim HealthCare, we offer specialized Alzheimer's home health care services for those who are fighting Alzheimer's and dementia. Working with you and your loved one's doctor, we map out the best course of care to keep your loved one safe and healthy at home, as long as possible. 

An important resource if your family is facing Alzheimer's or another dementia.

We know that knowledge is truly power when it comes to the fight against Alzheimer's and dementia. That's why we created our Dementia Caregiver's Guide. With tips and advice to help you take care of your loved one at every stage of dementia, we hope that this guide helps to alleviate some of the stress your family is facing. 

Download the guide here.