While the terms are often used interchangeably, it’s important for all of us to understand that dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are not the same. Dementia is not a single disease but rather a group of symptoms that can be caused by a range of diseases and physical or psychological conditions and it encompasses many conditions, not just Alzheimer’s disease specifically. However, many people don’t know much about either condition or how they work. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources that can educate you on the distinctions. If you’re in need of more information, keep reading to learn about the differences between Alzheimer’s and dementia.
What is the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia?
Alzheimer’s and dementia are related in the sense that they are both progressive, degenerative brain diseases. Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life, while Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. It accounts for the vast majority of all cases of dementia. As such, many people use “dementia” and “Alzheimer’s” interchangeably but there are some slight differences between them. You can do a quick search for “Alzheimers vs dementia” to find out even more about the reasons they are related.
Making a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or some other type of dementia is a complex process that often involves the collaboration of multiple healthcare professionals. The doctor will take into account any medical history and current symptoms as well as perform blood tests and imaging scans. They may then refer the patient to a specialist in neurology for further testing. Psychologists use these tests along with interviews with patients and their families to diagnose specific types of dementia including Alzheimer’s disease, which has distinct cognitive characteristics.
With Alzheimer’s, symptoms result from brain damage caused by plaques and tangles in the brain, while other forms of dementia can be caused by medical issues such as vascular disease, Lewy body disease, or Parkinson’s disease. While some symptoms may overlap between forms of dementia, they are distinct enough that they need to be treated as different conditions.
How can you support a loved one with dementia?
Now that you know how to tell the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia, let’s discuss what you can do to provide support for a loved one with a dementia diagnosis. For one, you should help them modify their home for accessibility. Some common home modifications that can be made for Alzheimer’s patients include installing grab bars in the bathroom, adding raised toilet seats, removing unnecessary clutter from the home, making sure pathways are clear and free of obstacles, and creating specific areas for particular activities.
There’s no doubt that socialization is an integral element of life for people living with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers. Research has shown that socialization can improve the quality of life for those living with Alzheimer’s. Socialization keeps the brain active and engaged, as well as provides a sense of purpose. It also can reduce the risk of depression, which is common among people with Alzheimer’s. Socialization can even improve communication skills, which can be particularly beneficial for Alzheimer’s patients.
Overall, understanding the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia is of utmost importance. Knowing the signs and symptoms of each can assist with accurate diagnosis and early intervention, potentially leading to better outcomes. Understanding the difference between these two conditions can reduce the stigma associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s, allowing those living with these conditions to receive the care and support they need. You can help too by taking on valuable home improvement projects and making an effort to be a part of their lives.