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How Dementia and Alzheimer’s Are Different

senior man sitting on a bench outside his retirement community

Many people use the terms “dementia” and “Alzheimer’s” interchangeably. That’s understandable, because they both refer to conditions people associate with memory loss, confusion and old age. But Alzheimer’s disease is just one type of dementia. There are many other types of dementia that cause problems with memory and thinking. Read on to learn more about the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.


What is Dementia?

Think of dementia as a general category of symptoms that affect the brain. Different groups of symptoms suggest specific types of dementia. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia, affecting one in 10 Americans 65 and older. Next to Alzheimer’s, there are three types of dementia that are most common. All have different symptoms.

  • Vascular dementia is the second most common form of dementia. It usually results from a stroke. Symptoms include difficulties with problem-solving, slowed thinking, focus and organization.
  • Lewy body dementia causes symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s. Other symptoms include hallucinations and fearfulness. This type of dementia occurs when abnormal clumps of protein develop inside nerve cells in the brain.
  • Frontotemporal dementia often makes it difficult to understand or produce language and/or causes changes in behavior and personality. This type of dementia damages nerve cells in the frontal lobe of the brain.

There are more types of dementia, but those mentioned above are the most common. To make diagnoses even trickier, the boundaries between different types of dementia overlap; mixed forms often coexist.


What is Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia and accounts for 60% to 80% of dementia cases. The most common early symptom of Alzheimer’s is trouble remembering new information. Symptoms, however, vary from person to person. Finding the right word, vision/spatial issues, and impaired reasoning or judgment may also signal the very early stages of Alzheimer’s. To be diagnosed with the disease, someone must show at least two or more of these 10 warning signs. If someone you love is showing signs of Alzheimer’s, it’s best to see a doctor so the cause can be determined.Your physician will perform a series of tests to rule out other possible causes of memory loss, such as urinary tract infection, abnormal blood sugar levels, vitamin B12 deficiency, sleep apnea, thyroid problems, medication side effects, and alcohol abuse.


Managing the Symptoms of Dementia

Once you have a diagnosis, you can start planning how to manage the symptoms and even slow down their effects with medication. The diagnosis may come as a shock or a relief. In some cases, people may not understand what you’re telling them or may deny it. If they respond well, provide additional information and involve them in the decision-making process. Most importantly, reassure your loved one that you’ll do all you can to support them.


Memory Care at Freedom Plaza

As a Life Plan Community, Freedom Plaza has memory care available on-site, if ever needed. Memory care at Freedom Plaza is grounded in a philosophy that the abilities that remain are far more important than those that are lost. Our programs focus on sustaining feelings of belonging, purpose and safety while seeking to preserve a sense of self. Learn more about memory care at Freedom Plaza.