Did you know that more than 50 million people have dementia, and 10 million cases are added every year? This chronic and insidious disease is the source of a lot of heartache in the afflicted and their family members.
This heartache is often compounded by a lack of understanding about the condition. For instance, many people don’t know the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Understanding your loved one’s condition is key when it comes to determining the level of care that they need.
In the spirit of making this difficult decision easier, we’ve put together this guide to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, so you and your family can tackle this obstacle while armed with knowledge. Read on to learn more!
What Is the Difference Between Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease?
Dementia is an umbrella term for a group of disorders with similar symptoms. There are many different types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s. If a disorder is classified as dementia, it means it affects the person’s memory, thinking, language, problem-solving abilities, and visual perception.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and makes up 70% of cases. However, there are several other kinds of dementia including:
- Lewy body dementia
- Frontotemporal disorders due to damage to the brain
- Huntington’s disease
- Creutzfeld-Jakob disease
- Chronic traumatic encephalopathy due to TBI
- Some people can have multiple forms of dementia at the same time. This is referred to as mixed dementia.
Signs of Dementia
Dementia, regardless of type, begins with forgetfulness. People with dementia will often forget items, lose track of time, and have difficulty navigating familiar locations. They might also have trouble sleeping and will display inappropriate social behaviors.
As the disorder progresses, the confusion grows.
Ultimately, the affected will have trouble remembering names and faces. They will have trouble taking care of themselves. At this point, dementia is easy to recognize through repetitive questioning and poor personal hygiene.
People with dementia end up unable to care for themselves and won’t be able to keep track of time, people, or familiar locations. Mood changes are common, and the affected is often depressed or aggressive.
Causes of Dementia
Although dementia doesn’t have a specific cause, there are a few factors that increase the risk of the disorder. Age is the main risk factor, as almost 50% of people over 85 experience some form of dementia.
Other risk factors include:
- Chronic drug use
- Alcohol consumption
- Vitamin deficiencies
- Traumatic head injury
- Vascular diseases
Although none of these factors can cause dementia, they have been linked to a higher rate of developing the disorder. In addition, untreated depression, loneliness, a sedentary lifestyle, and isolation are all linked to increased risk of dementia.
What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. Alzheimer’s is the result of a tangle of protein and plaque in the brain. These tangles can cloud brain cells, preventing them from communicating and functioning.
When the plaque builds up in the hippocampus, the memory is affected. In some cases, the brain will shrink. The cause of this build-up is still unknown.
Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease
There is some overlap between dementia and Alzheimer’s symptoms, but there are also a few differences. Alzheimer’s disease is a name for a more targeted disease, so the symptoms are more specific.
Alzheimer’s begins with trouble remembering and confusion over places, times, and people. Over time, disorientation grows and the person will experience mood changes. In addition, they will often be suspicious of people around them.
They might also have trouble with motor skills specifically walking and swallowing.
They’ll experience impaired judgment and apathy, often resulting in depression. Unlike other forms of dementia, people with Alzheimer’s are unlikely to have involuntary movement or trouble with balance. The primary symptoms involve memory and cognition.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s or dementia. There are ways to reduce symptoms and prolong the lifespan, but the disease is irreversible. Prompt treatment is the best way to keep symptoms minimal and manage them.
The treatment for dementia and Alzheimer’s overlap due to the overlap in the two conditions. However, treatment is targeted to the specific type of dementia.
Some medications can help improve behavioral changes and reduce inappropriate behavior. In addition, other medications can help with memory loss, depression, and sleep changes. The patient might also supplement their diet with fish oil and coconut oil to improve brain function.
Sometimes, full treatment isn’t possible from home. As the disease progresses, people with dementia and Alzheimers also benefit from a dedicated care team. Moving into an assisted living facility can greatly improve quality of life by helping with daily care and dedicated memory care.
An assisted living facility like Parsons House can provide dementia patients with a community and therapy developed by a memory care specialist. They can remain active while maintaining memory and brain function.
In addition, social isolation and loneliness can make dementia progress more quickly, so community living can help manage symptoms and slow the advance.
Get Care for Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease Today
Now that you understand the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, you know why seeking care early is important. Prompt treatment from memory care professionals can help slow the decline and preserve the brain function of your loved ones.
If your loved one is experiencing Alzheimer’s or any other kind of dementia, reach out to us at Parsons House on Eagle Run. We have experienced professionals on hand who can help prepare a care plan for your family. Parsons House is an award-winning Best of Omaha Assisted Living & Memory Care facility. Contact us today to learn more!