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

BY BETH SAGER

Quite often people use the terms dementia and Alzheimer’s interchangeably. In reality, while these two conditions have similarities, they are not the same. Knowing the differences can ensure your loved one gets the best care possible.

Dementia vs Alzheimer’sPortrait of sad senior woman, close up

Not understanding the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease can cause confusion for patients as well as their loved ones.

Put simply, the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s is that dementia is a brain disorder that negatively affects a person’s ability to perform daily activities as well as their ability to communicate. While Alzheimer’s, on the other hand, is a type of dementia that affects specific areas of a person’s brain that control memory, thought, and language.

Oftentimes, dementia is used as a term to describe different types of symptoms or diseases that impact memory and thinking, and while Alzheimer’s is a cause of dementia it is not uncommon for other diseases to cause it as well.

These include:

  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
  • Huntington’s disease

While the term dementia is used to cover many types of conditions, Alzheimer’s is a very specific disease with its own symptoms. These symptoms include:

  • Confusion
  • Impaired thought processes
  • Impaired Speech

How Is Dementia Different from Alzheimer’s?

If you’re wondering how to tell the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s, the only way to do so is to go to the doctor and have tests run. It is only after ruling certain conditions out and doing blood tests that you will know with any certainty which condition your loved one has.

The main difference between the two is that some forms of dementia are temporary or even reversible, but Alzheimer’s never is. This is especially true if the dementia is caused by a vitamin deficiency or drug interaction.

Some people wonder is dementia an illness or a condition? As dementia is a more general name for many diseases and is not a specific disease itself, calling it a condition makes more sense.

Symptoms of Dementia

Many of the symptoms of dementia are similar to symptoms of Alzheimer’s, which makes sense as Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia. If your loved one is suffering from either, you can expect to see differentiating levels of memory loss, a decrease in their ability to focus or pay attention, and impaired reasoning and judgement skills.

So, is dementia the same as Alzheimer’s? In some ways yes but in many ways no. It can be confusing, but it helps to remember that Alzheimer’s is merely one cause of dementia.

If you have a loved one with symptoms of dementia, talk to their primary care physician so they can help determine the type of dementia they have and the cause of it. While Alzheimer’s does cause 50% to 70% of all dementia cases, there are other causes as well.

Then the question is less what is the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s and more how can I make my loved one happier, healthier, and provide them with a higher quality of life for longer.