Are Dementia and Alzheimer’s the same?
Dementia and Alzheimer’s are not the same even though many people use the terms interchangeably. Dementia is not a disease. Dementia is the category of symptoms that shows a decline in cognitive ability severe enough to interfere with activities of daily living. Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disease.
If a loved one is having problems with two or more of these four core mental abilities: recent memory, language, visuospatial function, or executive function, they may be showing signs that can qualify as dementia. To qualify as a dementia, part of the diagnostic process is to look for these changes.
I use the term “may” because issues with these core mental abilities can be caused by more than a neurodegenerative disease. They can be caused by conditions like hearing loss or a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI). In fact, there are typically multiple causes when a person is showing this type of decline, which is why getting diagnosed is so important. Diagnosis requires several evaluations and is a rule-out diagnosis. Through the diagnostic process, they can be 90%-95% accurate in determining the cause of the symptoms of the dementia.
Neurodegenerative Diseases That Cause The Symptoms of Dementia
Below are examples of four neurodegenerative diseases that cause the symptoms of dementia. The causes of each neurodegenerative disease are different and each has different behaviors. The most common cause among the elderly is Alzheimer’s.
- Alzheimer’s – has three stages: early, moderate and late. These stages correlate to increased damage to the brain. In the early stage, the most notable symptom is no short-term memory. Your loved one will look and sound the same, but they have a brain disease. It is a slow, progressive loss in memory and ability. With Alzheimer’s it is often the loss of an executive function like safety awareness, that causes family to realize this is more than just memory loss. Every individual is affected in a unique way, as unique as the person. And this disease will magnify their personality, good or bad.
- Vascular dementia – caused by a series of small strokes (TIA’s). The result is the person’s short term memory comes and goes. And where the TIA’s strike affect behavior as well.
- Dementia with Lewy Bodies – Looks like a combination of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s with physical affects and progressive loss in memory and ability. About 50% of individuals with this disease also suffer from a sleep disorder.
- Frontotemporal Dementia – This disease is not as common and tends to hit younger people with an average age of 40-60, progressing more rapidly than the others. Behavior becomes unpredictable and can change with no warning; one moment they are OK, then become enraged.
Other Conditions that cause the symptoms of dementia:
The following conditions also cause the symptoms of dementia, but they can be managed and cured.
Disclaimer: The material in this blog is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace, nor does it replace, consulting with a physician, lawyer, accountant, financial planner or other qualified professional.
With thanks to my collaboration partner, Amy Matthews of Engaging Alzheimer’s LLC
Amy served as Associate Director for Education and Training with the Greater New Jersey Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. She served as Executive Director of one of the Arden communities part of Arden Courts, an Alzheimer’s exclusive organization. And Amy served as Education and Training Coordinator and Activity Coordinator for The Family Respite Center before joining Engaging Alzheimer’s LLC as a Dementia Coach.