Dementia vs. Alzheimer’s – Are They the Same Thing?

As a person ages, their chances of being diagnosed with certain diseases grows with them. For example, the elderly are more susceptible to diseases such as Dementia and Alzheimer’s than their younger counterparts. These two diseases commonly strike older patients and both are often used interchangeably when describing memory loss. What many people are unaware of is significant difference between Dementia vs. Alzheimer’s; both diseases are different and affect patients in a different manner. Learning the differences in Dementia vs. Alzheimer’s is imperative for anyone facing either of these conditions themselves or as caregivers to others.

Alzheimer’s is a specific medical disorder that affects the memory portion of a person’s brain. Dementia is not a specific disorder, but rather a culmination of several different symptoms. The leading cause of Dementia is actually Alzheimer’s disease; it is attributed to at least 65% of Dementia diagnosis’ in patients older than 60. Unfortunately, neither Alzheimer’s nor Dementia is curable, which means patients diagnosed with either will only be able to slow the process, not reverse it. While at first glance the conditions seem similar, let’s have a look at how they’re different by more closely defining each:

Alzheimer’s vs. Dementia – What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s is a disease that typically strikes patients over the age of 65. Only 5 percent of the world’s population with Alzheimer’s is under the age of 65 and those people are in their 40s and 50s. This is a progressive disease; it starts off slowly, perhaps even going unnoticed for months or years. Forgetfulness is a common symptom of Alzheimer’s; a patient may begin forgetting small things such as the name of his street or the names of people he has known for years. Eventually, the disease worsens and memory loss becomes more prevalent. In late stage Alzheimer’s, patients become unable to carry on a conversation or remember anything from their lives. They will not recognize themselves in the mirror or even their own children. Life expectancy for an Alzheimer’s patient is approximately 8 years after their symptoms become noticeable to others, though each case is unique.

Alzheimer’s vs. Dementia – What is Dementia?

Dementia is similar to Alzheimer’s in that it does result in significant memory loss. However, Dementia refers to the loss of cognitive ability due to no obvious circumstances such as a major injury or trauma. Rather than focusing on the memory portion of the brain, Dementia symptoms focus on multiple areas of the brain including the memory, language and problem solving areas. Like Alzheimer’s, Dementia is a progressive disease that begins almost unnoticeably and the patient’s health declines over time. In addition to having difficulty remembering things that are typically considered common knowledge, Dementia patients lose their ability to function in the world by losing the ability to recognize their own language, read, write, or solve basic math problems or tell time.

Alzheimer’s and Dementia – Treatment Options

Neither Dementia nor Alzheimer’s has a cure as of today. Medications and cognitive therapy can temporarily improve symptoms of both and can even prolong the inevitable; however, these medications do not work on everyone. Cognitive therapy for Dementia patients can additionally help a patient learn to control his angry outbursts – caused by frustration at being unable to remember or perform – but a cure has not yet been found for either disease.