What's the difference between Dementia and Alzheimer's?

Alzheimer’s vs. Dementia

People are often confused between dementia and Alzheimer’s. As a result, they often call any type of cognitive impairment Alzheimer’s. In fact, Dementia is a general term the covers several different types of cognitive disorders. Alzheimer’s is just one form of dementia.

Here is a good definition of Dementia from Web MD.

Dementia causes problems with thinking, memory, and reasoning. It happens when the parts of the brain used for learning, memory, decision making, and language are damaged or diseased.

This is a list of some of the most common forms of dementia.

  • Alzheimer's disease

  • Vascular dementia

  • Dementia from Parkinson's disease (and similar disorders)

  • Dementia with Lewy bodies

  • Frontotemporal dementia (Pick's disease)

  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease

Dementia is a general term

There are many other, less common, conditions that can also be referred to as dementia. In fact, there are around 50 other diseases or injuries that can cause dementia.


Stages of Dementia

Dementia is typically a progressive illness. You begin with mild symptoms and over time your symptoms get worse and impact more and more areas of your thinking and memory. In evaluating an individual for dementia, healthcare providers typically rank the symptoms on a 7 stage scale.

1) No impairment: Someone at this stage will show no symptoms, but tests may reveal a problem.

2) Very mild decline: You may notice slight changes in behavior, but your loved one will still be independent.

3) Mild decline: You'll notice more changes in his thinking and reasoning. He may have trouble making plans, and he may repeat himself a lot. He may also have a hard time remembering recent events.

4) Moderate decline: He'll have more problems with making plans and remembering recent events. He may have a hard time with traveling and handling money.

5) Moderately severe decline: He may not remember his phone number or his grandchildren's names. He may be confused about the time of day or day of the week. At this point, he will need assistance with some basic day-to-day functions, such as picking out clothes to wear.

6) Severe decline: He'll begin to forget the name of his spouse. He'll need help going to the restroom and eating. You may also see changes in his personality and emotions.

7) Very severe decline: He can no longer speak his thoughts. He can't walk and will spend most of his time in bed.

It’s important to remember that each form of dementia has its own set of symptoms and progresses in its own way. And, each individual has their own experience. For some the disease will progress slowly, for others it moves more quickly. This lack of a clear roadmap often increases the level of anxiety because it there’s no clear way to anticipate how life will change.

More information about Dementia

Here’s a link to a Web MD slideshow that gives a good overview of Alzheimer’s. Click here.