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Alzheimer's vs. Dementia: What's the Difference?

Elderly woman holding puzzle pieces
Image credit: Shutterstock

According to Alzheimer’s Disease International, 55 million people worldwide are living with Alzheimer's and other dementias. As your loved ones age, it’s important to know what dementia is, the different types of dementia, and how senior placement services like Welcome Home Senior can help families find the best care.

What is dementia?

Dementia is a general term that refers to a loss of memory and additional mental abilities that interfere with daily life. Typically, these symptoms are a result of a physical change in the brain.

While Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, there are many other types, including:

Vascular dementia is the second most common form of dementia and is caused by a block or reduced blood flow in the brain, which prevents oxygen and nutrients from reaching various parts of the brain. This in turn causes a decline in thinking and memory skills, as vital cells can be killed from depletion.

Lewy-body dementia, the third most common type, is a progressive form of dementia caused by abnormal microscopic deposits that damage the brain. This damage greatly impacts thinking, reasoning, and independent function.

Frontotemporal dementia is a group of disorders characterized by progressive nerve cell loss in the frontal lobes or temporal lobes of the brain. This damage causes a loss of function in these regions of the brain, leading to behavior, personality, and/or language comprehension problems.

Huntington’s disease, another progressive form of dementia, is caused by a defective gene that impacts the central area of the brain, affecting movement, mood, and thinking skills.

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia that starts with symptoms of mild memory loss and can quickly progress into severe impairment. The disease affects the parts of the brain that control thought, memory, and language, often leading to the loss of the ability to carry a conversation, respond to the environment, or take part in daily activities.

The cause of Alzheimer’s disease is not yet known; however, scientists believe there are several contributing factors that play a role in the development and progression of the illness. Such risk factors include age, family history, changes in the brain, and more.

Recognizing Alzheimer’s disease can be difficult, especially since many confuse it with other forms of dementia. Some telltale signs of Alzheimer’s disease include:

● Memory loss that disrupts daily life

● Trouble handling money

● Impaired judgment

● Changes in mood and behavior

● Difficulty completing familiar tasks

● Frequently misplacing items

While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, there are certain treatment methods that might help slow its progression. Treatment typically addresses how to maintain brain health, manage behavioral symptoms, and slow or delay symptoms of the disease.

How are they different?

While many falsely use dementia and Alzheimer's disease interchangeably, they are not the same thing. In fact, dementia is the umbrella term for countless memory loss diseases and disorders, while Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia. Causes, symptoms, prognoses, and treatment options all depend on the form of dementia.

Finding the right care facility to help

When looking for a care facility for your loved one with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, it’s critical you research different communities and vet their levels of care to find the right match.

If you’re searching for the right memory care community for your loved one, Welcome Home Senior Services and Placement Company can help with your search. We proudly represent over 500 senior communities in Miami-Dade, Broward, the Palm Beaches, the Florida Keys, and Lee and Collier Counties. Contact us to begin exploring which one is right for you and your family.


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