What’s the Difference Between Alzheimer’s and Dementia?

difference alzheimers dementia

Dementia, Alzheimer’s & How to Help Your Aging Parent or Loved One

Many people assume that dementia and Alzheimer’s are the same condition, but there are some key differences. Read on to learn more about those differences, plus ways to help an aging parent or loved one cope with cognitive decline.

What is dementia?

Dementia is a broad term, sometimes referred to as an umbrella term, that describes a vast set of symptoms related to cognitive decline. It tends to be a progressive disorder, which means the brain’s ability to function could decline over time. However, this isn’t the case for all patients, and dementia symptoms are unique for every person.

Common symptoms of dementia include:

  • Memory loss (short-term memory usually suffers first)
  • Difficulty “finding the right words” and/or speaking clearly
  • A hard time concentrating and focusing
  • Changes in behavior and emotional regulation
  • Confusion about days, dates, times and location

Living with dementia is incredibly hard because the ability to perform daily tasks and live independently is greatly diminished. It’s not an uncommon condition, either. Approximately 5.7 million people in the U.S. have dementia, but only half have a formal doctor’s diagnosis.

What is Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, an estimated 5.5 million Americans ages 65 and older are currently living with Alzheimer’s. Younger-onset Alzheimer’s is also possible — approximately 200,000 people in the U.S. under age 65 also have Alzheimer’s.

Although it can be hard to diagnose the exact type of dementia a person has (because the symptoms can be similar) it is estimated that 60% to 80% of all people with dementia have Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s disease is universally progressive, though the rate at which symptoms increase varies and is often age-dependent.

Helping a loved one who suffers from dementia

No matter what type of dementia your aging parent or loved one is experiencing, there are ways to improve their quality of life. Seemingly simple activities can also be beneficial to seniors with mild dementia. One example is The Argyle’s MUSIC & MEMORY® program, where many residents have noticed significant cognitive benefits.

While the program isn’t intended for individuals with severe dementia or Alzheimer’s, “objective evidence from brain imaging [also] shows personally meaningful music is an alternative route for communicating with patients who have Alzheimer’s disease.”

Frequent, in-person visits can also be life-changing as well. You’ll spend precious quality time with your loved one and will also have a chance to monitor their ability to take care of themselves. To learn more, read this quick article on The Importance of In-Person Visits With Aging Parents.

Lastly, if you’re caring for a loved one with dementia, be sure to check out the resources available for caregivers from the Alzheimer’s Association. From support groups to helpful tips, there’s tons of information you can use to support yourself and the senior you care about.

As a local nonprofit, The Argyle has brought high quality and affordable care to Denver’s seniors since 1874. To this day, our caring team remains committed to encouraging independence and preserving the dignity of every resident who calls our community home.

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