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4 years ago · · Comments Off on Alzheimer’s and Dementia: What’s the Difference?

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

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Memory loss and cognitive issues are incredibly devastating to families and individuals having to live with them. Dementia and Alzheimer’s are common memory loss conditions that affect individuals of all ages and are regularly used interchangeably. However, there are stark differences between the two. For families of individuals living with either, understanding the differences can help with symptom intervention and therapy.

What is dementia and Alzheimer’s?

It’s essential first to understand both of the conditions to decipher specific differences and what they entail to provide the proper treatment. Dementia is a syndrome, which means it is made up of symptoms that don’t lead to a specific diagnosis. In other words, dementia is the term designated to describe a series of symptoms that impact memory and the ability to perform daily activities and communicate coherently.

Alzheimer’s is a disease that prevents brain nerve cells from functioning correctly, which can affect mood and behavior, memory, speech, and cause paranoia and confusion. According to studies, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, and it is responsible for 60 to 80 percent of all dementia cases.

What are the main differences?

As we mentioned above, the most crucial difference to remember is dementia is a syndrome, and Alzheimer’s is a disease that can cause dementia. However, there are vital differences in diagnosing and detecting symptoms and treatment for both.

Diagnoses and Detection

Dementia: To diagnose dementia, a doctor must find that your loved one shows a decline in two cognitive or behavioral areas. These areas include:

  • Disorientation

  • Disorganization

  • Impaired language

  • Changes to mood and personality

  • Memory loss

A diagnosis for dementia is administered by a specialist such as a psychiatrist, neurologist, or geriatric medicine physician who will typically review a patient’s history and then perform several mental-skill evaluations, blood tests, or brain scans. Often, specialists can accurately diagnose dementia systems in 90 percent of the cases they review.

Alzheimer’s: Unfortunately, diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease can be more difficult. In fact, for decades, doctors have used a process of elimination when diagnosing Alzheimer’s. This process of elimination has been based on a patient’s symptoms and scores from a mental-health screening, which can rule out types of dementia, such as:

  • Vascular dementia – A lack of oxygen to the brain causes brain cell nerve death and damage.

  • Mixed dementia – An individual can experience a mix of symptoms and have more than one type of dementia.

  • Frontotemporal dementia – Abnormal protein gathers at the brain’s front and sides, causing nerve cell death.

The progression and timing of Alzheimer’s symptoms are significant as it is a degenerative brain disease that will worsen over time. So the sooner your loved one can be diagnosed, the quicker intervention can begin. Alzheimer’s symptoms can include:

  • Gradual and mild memory loss

  • Difficulty recalling events

  • Difficulty learning and retaining new skills or information


Dementia: First and foremost, discuss any concerns you have about a loved one with a specialist. While there is no treatment for halting the progression of dementia, there are many ways a specialist can help manage symptoms with medication, therapies, and counseling.

Alzheimer’s: Like dementia, although there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease, there are medications and non-medicative options to help treat symptoms. Understanding your loved one’s options can help them function better, improve quality of life, and comfortably live with the disease.

What are some tips to help family members and caregivers?

Remember, for your loved one diagnosed with any degenerative condition, life is going to change. You need to be patient and understand that abnormal behavior is a product of the disease or syndrome, not your loved one. Try the following tips to help your loved one manage a better quality of life:

  • Create a habitual routine and stick to it.

  • Simplify the arrangement of furniture to avoid distraction and confusion.

  • Stay calm when addressing your loved one.

  • Use nightlights to reduce misperceptions when the sunsets.

How can Tribute Senior Living be of assistance?

At Tribute Senior Living, we are dedicated to empowering your loved one to fight for the kind of life they want—no matter the diagnosis. This is why we hire educated professionals with years of experience to implement programs like Fight Club that provide unique approaches to physical fitness, nutrition, and mental fitness. Contact us to discuss the kinds of therapies we offer.

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Categories: Memory Care