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How Is Dementia Different from Alzheimer’s Disease?

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Many people, including some health professionals, use the terms dementia and Alzheimer’s interchangeably. However, the two terms are not synonymous. Understanding the differences between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is critical in treating the conditions. 

Definition

Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a group of symptoms affecting memory, communication skills, and the ability to perform routine tasks. Saying a person has dementia is analogous to saying someone has a sore shoulder. Just like the shoulder pain may be caused by arthritis, bursitis, or even a torn rotator cuff, dementia can be caused by a variety of health conditions. To be classified as having dementia, a person must have deficits in at least two of the following areas:

  • Memory
  • Reasoning and judgment
  • Focus and concentration
  • Visual perception
  • Speech and communication

It is only after the underlying cause of these symptoms is identified that the appropriate treatment can be determined. 

Alzheimer’s disease is a specific condition as well as the most common cause of dementia symptoms. Several other health issues can also cause dementia, such as Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and various vascular conditions. Even drug use and vitamin deficiencies due to malnutrition can cause dementia symptoms.

Both dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are serious medical conditions that can impact a senior’s memory, mobility, and the ability to perform daily activities independently. Aging adults who require assistance with the tasks of daily living can benefit from reliable in-home care. Cleveland, OH, families trust in Home Care Assistance to provide the high-quality care their elderly loved ones need and deserve. Our caregivers are trained to help seniors prevent and manage serious illnesses and encourage them to make healthier decisions as they age.

Symptoms

Many forms of dementia share symptoms such as forgetfulness, confusion, communication impairment, and disorientation. Other symptoms can vary depending on the specific form of dementia. For example, individuals with Alzheimer’s disease may demonstrate depression, apathy, impaired judgment, and changes in visual perception. Individuals with dementia caused by Huntington’s or Parkinson’s disease typically exhibit involuntary movements in the early stages of the condition. A person with Lewy body dementia typically experiences hallucinations and other visual disturbances during the initial stages of the disease. These subtle differences in symptoms and when they appear can be helpful in making a diagnosis and determining the course of treatment.

Treatment Options

Alzheimer’s disease is typically managed through various medications that can address behavioral changes and memory loss. Treatments for other forms of dementia may vary based on the underlying cause. For example, individuals with vascular dementia receive treatments aimed at preventing strokes and limiting further damage to the blood vessels of the brain. Regardless of the specific cause, most individuals with dementia will need significant supportive care from family members and professional caregivers once the disease reaches an advanced stage. 

Living with a serious health condition can make it challenging for seniors to age in place. However, they can maintain a higher quality of life with the help of professional live-in care. Cleveland seniors can benefit from assistance with meal prep, bathing, transportation to the doctor’s office, medication reminders, and much more.

Long-Term Prognosis

Alzheimer’s disease and most other forms of dementia are not curable. The goal of treatment is to slow the progression of the disease and enhance quality of life for as long as possible. In rare cases, such as when dementia is caused by a severe vitamin deficiency or a brain tumor, cognitive function may increase once the underlying condition is treated.

Caring for a senior loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia can be a challenging task. Families who find it difficult to care for their aging loved ones without assistance can benefit greatly from professional respite care. Cleveland, OH, family caregivers who need a break from their caregiving duties can turn to Home Care Assistance. Using our proprietary Balanced Care Method, our respite caregivers can encourage your loved one to eat well, exercise regularly, get plenty of mental and social stimulation, and focus on other lifestyle factors that promote longevity. To learn about our revolutionary in-home care plans, call one of our professional Care Managers at (440) 332-0170 today.

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