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The Difference Between Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

It is essential to differentiate the differences between dementia and Alzheimer’s. We are all exposed to the aging process eventually. Understanding the differences lends to understanding what the senior in your life is facing. Education empowers us all, and knowledge is crucial in understanding what to expect if you are a caregiver. Read on to learn the ins and outs of both dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and how memory care and companion services by Luxury Home Care in Nashville, TN can help.

What is Dementia?

In general terms, dementia describes a decline in mental ability that interferes with daily life. Dementia surrounds symptoms that show decreased memory, reasoning, or other thinking skills. There are different types of dementia, and it is vital to realize that dementia is not a normal part of aging. The difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s is dementia is more of a blanket term describing specific symptoms. Alzheimer’s is a disease.

Dementia is caused by damage to brain cells that affect specific cognitive abilities. Understanding the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s will broaden your scope of education concerning cognitive difficulties. Many people believe that dementia is a normal part of aging, but that is incorrect. Many diseases carry the symptom of dementia through changes in the brain. The types of dementia include the following:

  • Mixed dementia
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
  • Down syndrome and Alzheimer’s
  • Dementia with Lewy bodies
  • Frontotemporal dementia
  • Huntington’s Disease
  • Normal pressure hydrocephalus
  • Posterior cortical atrophy
  • Parkinson’s disease dementia
  • Vascular dementia
  • Korsakoff syndrome

Signs and Symptoms of Dementia

The close relationship between dementia and Alzheimer’s makes determining what your loved one is facing challenging. Dementia is a noticeable decline in mental functioning. While Alzheimer’s is a disease, dementia is a syndrome. Close monitoring of your loved one can point the following signs and symptoms towards dementia. However, only a doctor can diagnose dementia.

  • Forgetfulness or a decline in thought processes that interfere with daily life
  • Inability to perform regular tasks without assistance
  • Impaired reasoning ability and severe memory loss

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease and is the most common cause of dementia. As a result, damaged brain cells affect an individual’s ability to communicate, think, and process feelings and behavior. The similarities between dementia and Alzheimer’s are changes in the brain cells that cause difficulties in many aspects of thinking and behaviors.  Alzheimer’s is also not considered a normal part of aging.

Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease

  • Memory loss disrupts daily life: a common symptom of Alzheimer’s disease is difficulty remembering newly learned information, important dates, and events. Repeating the same questions over and over is another sign.
  • Challenges in developing plans or solving problems that revolve around numbers are symptomatic of Alzheimer’s. For example, trouble following a recipe or paying monthly expenditures.
  • Difficulty with familiar daily tasks, including driving to regular destinations, making a grocery list, or remembering the rules of a game.
  • Time and place confusion includes dates, seasons, and the passing of time.
  • Problems with understanding visual images and spatial relationships include balance issues, differentiating between colors, and difficulty reading or judging distances.
  • New issues with finding words, reading words, and conversing without getting lost appear.
  • They are misplacing items and need help remembering the steps to find them. They may start accusing people of stealing things instead of realizing they have lost items.
  • Decreased or poor judgment, inability to make sound decisions, poor grooming habits, and less attention to detail.
  • They are withdrawing or isolating themselves from social interactions because of difficulties interacting with people.
  • Distinct changes in personality and mood come to light. They are experiencing confusion, depression, fearfulness, and anxiety while having trouble coping when outside of their comfort place.

Making the Determination of Change

With age comes changes. When you notice a difference in your loved one, it’s hard to judge if the normal aging process is to blame or if dementia and Alzheimer’s should be considered. Subtle age-related changes will happen. Conversations with your loved one and constant assessments of their behavior are essential. The following behaviors are typical age-related behavior and thought changes. Typical age-related changes can include:

  • Sometimes forgetting names or appointments but remembering them later
  • Occasional errors in managing finances
  •  Needing help with the microwave settings or remembering how to record shows on the DVR
  • Confusion about a day of the week, but remember later on
  • Visual changes because of cataracts
  • Sometimes having trouble pulling out the correct word
  • Misplacing things but having the ability to retrace steps to find them
  • Forgetting tasks occasionally, like changing the oil in the car
  • Lack of interest in family or social obligations from time to time
  • Feeling irritated when the routine is interrupted

Diagnosing Dementia and Alzheimer’s

How can you determine when it’s time to diagnose dementia and Alzheimer’s? After making your assessment, including multiple conversations with your loved one. Journaling situations and examples of cognitive and behavioral changes that have caused concern is helpful. Watching for the following behaviors and identifying they exist should result in a visit to the doctor for an evaluation.

The following signs and symptoms should be noted with examples:

  • Disorientation
  • Disorganization
  • Language impairment
  • Mood changes
  • Personality changes
  • Memory loss
  • Irritability
  • Depression and anxiety

The primary care doctor can record your notes and give a physical exam to link any physical problems that may be contributing factors. For example, vascular disease and Parkinson’s disease can be associated with these symptoms, as well as dementia and Alzheimer’s. In addition, various standardized testing can judge memory and cognitive abilities.

Find Help in Caring for Loved Ones with Dementia or Alzheimer’s

If your loved one is experiencing the initial symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s and you are concerned about their care, contact us. Luxury Home Care in Tennessee has many options available for senior care. Memory care is an option for these issues, and we would be glad to alleviate your concerns with a meeting to answer your questions. Contact us so we can move toward the best options for your loved one.

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