Alzheimer’s and Dementia- Is There A Difference

by | Apr 1, 2020 | Dementia


Alzheimer's and Dementia

While many people pair Alzheimer’s and dementia in the same category, they are, in fact, different. While Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia, they are not the same.


The symptoms are going to appear the same and overlap in their actions and descriptions. However, dementia is a syndrome and Alzheimer’s is a disease. It is vital to distinguish them apart for the purpose of treating and managing each one correctly.



Brain Health- Alzheimer's and Dementia


While referred to as dementia, Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease. And it falls under the Dementia umbrella. It affects the brain and slowly damages impairment in memory and cognitive function. The actual damage to the brain, however, starts developing years before the symptoms appear.


It begins with abnormal protein deposits forming plaques and tangles in the brain. This causes the connections between cells to be lost, and they begin to die. In more advanced cases, the brain shows significant shrinkage in size.


The exact cause and cure are yet unknown. It is estimated that over 5 million people in the United States have Alzheimer’s disease. It commonly starts to show symptoms after the age of 60 but younger people are certainly not immune to it.


Dementia Umbrella


Dementia is classified as a syndrome, not a disease. A syndrome refers to a group of symptoms that don’t have a definitive diagnosis. This means dementia is made up of any symptoms that affect mental cognitive abilities like memory or reasoning.


Dementia is a broad term that Alzheimer’s disease can fall under. There can be many different types of dementia and can occur due to a variety of conditions, the most common of which is Alzheimer’s disease. People can also have different types of dementia at the same time.


As it progresses, it can have a devastating impact on a person’s ability to function independently. This can cause a lot of financial and emotional burdens on families.


Causes of Dementia


People are most likely to develop dementia as they age. It starts to develop when certain brain cells are damaged. Many medical conditions can cause dementia, including degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s. Because these causes are all different, it causes damage to a different set of brain cells.


Other factors can include:


  • Viruses or infections, like HIV

  • Chronic drug use

  • Stroke

  • Depression

  • Vascular diseases

Symptoms For Alzheimer’s and Dementia May Differ

Diagnose dementia

Again, symptoms can appear to be very similar but Alzheimer’s is it’s own disease while dementia can other symptoms and results. There are certain types of dementia that will share some of these symptoms, but they will also have other symptoms or lacking certain symptoms that help make a more definite diagnosis.


For Alzheimer’s, look for


  • Apathy

  • Trouble remembering recent events or conversations

  • Depression

  • Impaired judgment

  • Confusion

  • Disorientation

  • Changes in behavior

  • Difficulty speaking, swallowing or even walking in advanced stages of the disease


Alzheimer's and Dementia

While people with dementia may also have some of these symptoms, they will have either different ones or none of these at all. People with dementia from complications due to Parkinson’s or Huntington’s disease are more likely to experience twitching, tics, and other involuntary movements.

Treating  Alzheimer’s And Dementia


With Alzheimer’s, there is no cure, but with dementia, there are successes in dealing with the conditions that may be behind the cause of dementia. The case will need to be looked at on an individual base, but certain treatments, while not a cure, can certainly make life more enjoyable and comfortable.


Some types of dementia can be reversed, but in most cases, not so and only get worse over time. With Alzheimer’s, there is no known cure as yet. Alzheimer’s is a terminal condition and once diagnoses; a life span of 4-8 years is normal.


So, while there are many different types of dementia, Alzheimer’s is one of them. Their symptoms can overlap and have similar characteristics to each other, but there will be definite things about Alzheimer’s that make it distinctive.


Of course, a true diagnosis can only be determined after death. Alzheimer’s is one of the more common forms of dementia but not everyone with dementia will have Alzheimer’s disease.

While medications and different types of physical and psychological therapies can have positive results, keeping the patient safe and comfortable are likely the best cures in advanced stages.


Drugs may relieve some of the symptoms but some of these may numb the patient, even more, adding to their confusion and frustration. Once the damage gets worse, they need constant care to ensure they don’t hurt themselves.


There is a difference between the two, but they are often lumped together. Dementia can be present in many different forms while Alzheimer’s is its own disease. If you feel someone in your life or you may be showing signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s it’s always best to consult with your health care provider to make sure.

Caring for someone with dementia is not easy. It can weigh heavily on your heart. Allowing someone else to take over the daily care routine will allow you to be the spouse, daughter, son or grandchild again. Come for a tour at Sycamore Creek Ranch! See how we can help!




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