Dementia and Alzheimer's | What Is the Difference?

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Dementia and Alzheimer's | What Is the Difference?

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The terms “dementia” and “Alzheimer’s disease” are often used synonymously, but the two terms are not fully interchangeable. There are marked differences between the various forms of dementia. Identifying the specific type of dementia your loved one has can better prepare you for their long-term needs.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

When distinguishing between dementia and Alzheimer's, there is one crucial interaction between the diseases you must note: Those who have Alzheimer’s have dementia, but not all people with dementia have Alzheimer’s. Dementia is a general term used to describe a variety of disorders characterized by a decrease in cognitive thinking and reasoning skills.

The Difference Between Dementia and Alzheimer’s

Dementia and Alzheimer’s: What Is Dementia?

Simply put, dementia is an irreversible decrease in mental function. It is not a disease but a syndrome potentially caused by a variety of disorders. Dementia is not just memory loss; it is also the loss or inability to manage without assistance from another person.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, dementia is not considered a normal part of aging. It occurs as a result of damaged brain cells. When this damage occurs, cells are no longer able to function and communicate normally, affecting your ability to think, act, and feel.

When an individual has dementia, they are often able to hide their symptoms for a time. Eventually, their ability to hide their illness will fade as the increase of symptoms begin to appear. These symptoms include loss of memory, diminished understanding and language skills, reduced judgment skills, and the incapacity to think out tasks like bathing, cooking, or finding your way home from an outing. People with dementia find performing daily tasks — even those they have normally and independently carried out throughout their life — extremely difficult.

The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s, but it is just one of many. Other forms of dementia include:

  • Parkinson’s disease

  • Lewy Body Dementia

  • Huntington’s disease

  • Vascular Dementia

  • Mixed Dementia

Dementia and Alzheimer’s: What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60-80% of dementia cases. It is caused by complex brain changes that occur after cell damage, paving the way for symptoms of dementia that slowly get worse over time. Most frequently, the first symptom of Alzheimer’s to appear is difficulty remembering new information. This occurs because the disease generally affects two parts of the brain involved in memory and learning, the entorhinal cortex and hippocampus.

Unfortunately, Alzheimer's, an incurable progressive brain disorder, will gradually cause:

  • Confusion,

  • Loss of memory,

  • Compromised judgment,

  • Disorientation,

  • Changes in personality, and

  • Losing the ability to communicate.

In the late stages, Alzheimer's disease impedes your ability to complete even the simplest of tasks, such as swallowing.

The greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s is age, but it is not a normal part of aging. The majority of people with Alzheimer’s disease are 65 or older, but an estimated 200,000 people under age 65 have early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in the United States.

Making the Diagnosis

To determine the type of dementia, you or your loved one will go through a thorough examination by your primary care doctor or specialist to discover the exact cause of any symptoms. Your check-up may involve blood work, memory screenings, mental health evaluations, and brain scans (in some cases). However, sometimes, a true diagnosis cannot be made until after a person's death during autopsy.

If you notice a loved one seems to be losing mental function to a point daily life and social interactions are negatively impacted, talk to their doctor right away. Medications are available to help manage symptoms. If tolerated well, medications have been shown to slow the progression of behavioral symptoms when started earlier in diagnosis. However, there is no curative treatment for Alzheimer's disease.

Dementia Care and Alzheimer’s Care in Little Rock

Here at CareLink, we provide resources for Alzheimer’s and other forms of Dementia care in Little Rock and the surrounding areas to help older people and their caregivers overcome the challenges accompanying these conditions. We offer HomeCare services, family caregiver support, and in-home respite care.

HomeCare Services

CareLink’s HomeCare services improve the lives of our home-bound clients by providing care and companionship. Our trained professionals come to your home to assist with day-to-day tasks so you or your loved one can stay independent. Whether a few hours of care or 24-hour assistance are needed, we provide assistance through a wide range of quality services adapted to meet your specific needs at home.

CareLink provides help with:

  • Cleaning,

  • Mobility,

  • Meals,

  • Personal hygiene, and

  • Dressing.

Family Caregiver Support

At CareLink, we understand you want the very best for your family members as they age. Overseeing their care and traversing the tangle of available resources is a great challenge. We strive to mitigate the stressors family caregivers encounter when taking care of an older loved one. Allow CareLink to connect you with some of the resources for dementia and Alzheimer’s care in Little Rock to make your responsibilities and care more effective

In-Home Respite Care

Caring for an aging loved one is a full-time job and does not allow much time to care for yourself or other family members. We know how crucial downtime is to prevent caregiver burnout. CareLink’s in-home respite care provides a break for caregivers by offering them some time away.

Our respite care team will take over the responsibilities of the caregiver, whether they need to take care of some tasks outside the home, get some work done around the house, or just want to take a break. In-home respite care builds a stronger connection between patient and caregiver by relieving stress.

For More Information

This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. For more information about CareLink and how we can be there for your family, call us at (501) 372-5300 or send an email to