What is the difference between dementia and Alzheimer's?

Dementia and Alzheimer’s are terms you may have heard used interchangeably despite the fact that they aren’t the same. Some clarity on each of these terms can help you better support a friend or family member who has been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s. So here we’ll explore the differences between the two.

Defining dementia

Dementia is not a disease. It describes a group of symptoms that affect memory, the ability to communicate and carry out everyday activities. It is possible to get a diagnosis of dementia and not know the precise cause. Symptoms of dementia include, but are not limited to, difficulty with:

  • visual perception e.g. hallucinations, differentiating colours, detecting movement

  • remembering things e.g. names, the route home

  • thinking clearly

  • making decisions

  • controlling emotions

Dementia is, therefore, an umbrella term that encompasses several diseases which result in some of the above symptoms. Alzheimer’s, also known as Alzheimer’s disease (AD), is, as the name implies, a disease with a known cause. It is the most common type of dementia, affecting 60–80% of people with dementia.

Alzheimer’s explained

This disease is caused by the improper accumulation of proteins and fibres within brain cells, which are called plaques and tangles, respectively. They cause brain cells to die, which eventually results in a variety of worsening symptoms that affect memory, thinking and language.

One of the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s is memory loss, such as forgetting about recent events and/or the names of objects or places. Individuals with early-stage Alzheimer’s may also struggle to find the right words when talking and ask the same question repeatedly. As the disease is degenerative, symptoms eventually progress to confusion and problems with daily care and personal hygiene. It is at this point that those with Alzheimer’s, or their family, may consider live in care to enable them to continue living safely in their own home for longer.

Other types of dementia

While Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia, there are several others including vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies and frontotemporal dementia. Doctors use a series of tests to assess memory, attention, language and vision to determine which type of dementia is most likely the cause of given symptoms. They may also carry out a brain scan called an MRI if needed.

Help at hand

In most cases, dementia cannot be cured but there are often medications to help treat the symptoms as well as lifestyle changes and therapies to make coping with dementia easier. Familiar surroundings are often beneficial in minimising the confusion that often comes with dementia. This is where live in care can help by providing both practical assistance and emotional support within a client’s own home.

At Patricia White’s, not only do we provide compassionate live-in care in London but we offer specially tailored dementia care as part of our bespoke live in care service. Find out more about how we can help your loved one by making an enquiry online.

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