The Difference Between Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

Senior woman talking with smiling middle-aged woman indoors
What’s the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease? When you’re advocating for your loved one, accuracy matters. You need to be ready to provide your loved one’s health care team with clear, factual information. You also have to be prepared to understand the information that they’re relaying to you. Educating yourself about terms that you’re likely to encounter frequently, including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, during you’re loved one’s healthcare journey can help ensure that the journey is smooth, productive, and pleasant.

The Difference Between Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

What’s the difference between a fruit and a banana? If you think that they’re the same thing, think again. After all, a banana is actually a type of fruit. People trying to find the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease will discover a similar situation.

As the Alzheimer’s Association explains, Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disease that’s one of the known causes of dementia. In fact, experts believe that Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia and state that it’s responsible for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. Taking a closer look at the two conditions can help you better understand the differences between them.

Exploring Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a specific disease that slowly and progressively damages the brain. An autopsy is required for an official, accurate diagnosis, but specialists who treat patients get the diagnosis correct 90 percent of the time. The right diagnosis is important when it comes to providing proper care.

In Alzheimer’s disease, part of the brain associated with learning is impacted first, so changes in memory, thinking, and cognitive function are early signs. As Healthline explains, one of the trademarks of Alzheimer’s disease is abnormal protein deposits in the brain. These are called plaques and tangles. Plaques are clumps of protein that block communication between neurons. Tangles are proteins that twist together like vines, choking healthy brain cells and killing them. No one knows what causes this disease, and there’s no cure. However, treatments are available.

Discovering Dementia

What makes a diagnosis of dementia different? It helps to understand what dementia is. It’s not a specific disease. Instead, it’s a syndrome. As the Mayo Clinic explains, dementia is an umbrella term that’s used to describe a range of symptoms that impact a person’s ability to complete everyday tasks independently and successfully. These symptoms include a notable decline in memory, negative shifts in judgment and reasoning, detrimental changes in thinking skills, decreases in focus and attention, and changes in behavior and language skills.

People often use the terms dementia and Alzheimer’s disease interchangeably. Clearly, they aren’t the same thing. In fact, if your loved one is diagnosed with dementia, there’s a chance that they may also be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease because Alzheimer’s disease is a potential culprit. However, it’s not the only one. According to Mayo Clinic, there are several other causes and types of dementia:

  • Chronic traumatic encephalopathy
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
  • Frontotemporal dementia
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Lewy body dementia
  • Limbic-predominant age-related TDP-43 encephalopathy
  • Mixed dementia
  • Parkinson’s disease dementia
  • Vascular dementia

Finding the Right Treatment

Although there may not be cures available yet for either dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, there are treatments, according to WebMD. Some treatments are used for both Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia:

  • Memory loss may be treated with cholinesterase inhibitors.
  • Learning and memory changes may be treated with glutamate inhibitors.
  • Behavior changes may be addressed with antipsychotic medications.
  • Depression symptoms may be treated with antidepressants.
  • Sleep difficulties may be helped by sleep medications.

When your loved one is facing a health challenge, being a good advocate is important. Learning the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease can help you prepare to participate actively in their care. At the Beach House, we understand the value of strong communities and good connections. That’s why we work diligently to build supportive, nurturing environments for all our residents. If your loved one needs top-notch memory care services, we invite you to visit our community and explore the possibilities.

If you’re hoping to retire in Jacksonville, Florida, the Beach House could be the ideal place. Our friendly and compassionate staff members offer individualized care 24/7, ensuring the safety, security, and happiness of all residents. The Beach House provides assisted living, memory care, and respite care. Most importantly, we tailor these services to suit the unique needs of each resident. To learn more about our amenities or schedule a tour, please contact us online or give us a call at 904-615-8076. We look forward to hearing from you!