Dementia vs. Alzheimer’s: What Are They and What’s the Difference?

We often hear these terms used interchangeably. But the two have distinct meanings. Dementia is a general term that encompasses a wide variety of symptoms. As a result of experiencing these symptoms, people may find it difficult to carry out routine tasks without assistance.

Alzheimer’s disease is by far the most common form of dementia but it is a distinct condition, while Dementia is not.

It is helpful for people with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, as well as their loved ones and caregivers, to gain a better understanding of the difference between the two terms.

In This Post We'll Talk About...

  1. The relationship between dementia and Alzheimer’s
  2. Key warning signs for dementia and prevention
  3. Prevention, help and support for dementia

Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

Mild cognitive impairment, also known as MCI, is a stage of cognitive decline that could appear to be the early signs of the disease continuum, though this isn’t always the case. Memory loss, trouble communicating, and impaired thought and decision-making are all hallmarks of this condition.

A person with mild cognitive impairment may notice a decline in memory or mental acuity. It’s possible that close friends and family members will also observe a shift. But these changes aren’t big enough to affect their overall quality of life or make daily activities hard to do.

MCI may increase your risk of dementia, including your risk of Alzheimer’s. On the other hand, for some people with mild cognitive impairment, the condition does not deteriorate over time, and others even experience some degree of improvement depending on the cause.

Dementia and Alzheimers

Dementia Overview

Dementia is the umbrella term for a set of symptoms that adversely impact memory, cognition, and social skills to the point where they become problematic in daily living.

It is not a single disease but rather a wide range of symptoms caused by a variety of conditions. This means there’s more than one type of dementia, including vascular dementia (caused by lack of blood in the brain), and frontotemporal dementia (caused by the degeneration of the frontal lobe).

Memory loss is often a sign for people with dementia, but it can also be caused by other things. Although memory loss is a common symptom of dementia, it is not diagnostic of the disease for people with memory problems.

While Alzheimer’s disease accounts for the vast majority of cases of progressive dementia in the elderly, there are many other conditions that can lead to cognitive decline. Some dementia signs and symptoms may be reversed depending on the underlying reason.

Alzheimer’s Overview

Alzheimer’s disease is a brain ailment considered to be the most common type of dementia. It deteriorates a person’s memory, thinking skills, and capacity to carry out even the most fundamental of duties.

In the majority of patients who have the condition, the symptoms of the late-onset dementia don’t start showing up until they are in their mid-60s. Extremely uncommon, early-onset Alzheimer’s disease can strike a person anywhere between the ages of 30 and the middle of their 60s. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for around half of all cases of dementia in the elderly population.

The disease is known to destroy brain cells affecting overall brain health. Because Alzheimer’s disease often first affects the region of the brain that is responsible for learning, difficulty remembering newly acquired knowledge is the most prevalent early symptom of the condition.

As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, its symptoms, which include disorientation, confusion, and changes in behavior, become increasingly severe. As time goes on, even the simplest of tasks, like talking or swallowing, can become challenging.

The Warning Signs

Dementias like Alzheimer’s can cause serious memory loss that interferes with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that progressively impairs mental abilities over time.

You should take into account any of the factors that put you at a higher risk of dementia. These factors may include a family history of dementia, atherosclerosis, diabetes, MCI, and other risk factors.

There are 10 symptoms and signs to look out for. If you happen to notice any of them, you shouldn’t brush them off. Set up a visit with your healthcare professional.

  • Forgetting recent information is a common early sign of Alzheimer’s disease. Others include forgetting important dates or events or asking the same questions over and over. They have to rely more and more on memory aids or family members to do things they used to be able to do on their own.
  • Dementia can affect a person’s brain in many ways, including their ability to make plans, stick to them, and use numbers. They may struggle to follow a recipe or pay bills on time. They may have trouble focusing, make poor judgements, and take longer to do things.
  • Everyday activities can be challenging for those with Alzheimer’s. They might have trouble driving to a familiar place, making a grocery list, or remembering how to play a game they like.
  • People with Alzheimer’s lose track of dates, seasons, and time. They may not understand something if it’s delayed. They may become disoriented and forget how they arrived at their current location.
  • Vision issues may be a sign of Alzheimer’s. This can cause balance or reading issues. They may also have trouble with depth perception, color perception, and driving.
  • Alzheimer’s patients may find it challenging to keep up or even join in on a conversation. They may halt mid-sentence, unable to think of what to say next, or they may rehash the same information over and over. They might have trouble with words, have trouble naming common things, or use the wrong name.
  • A person with Alzheimer’s disease may put things in unusual places. They may misplace items and be unable to retrace their steps to retrieve them. Especially as the disease gets worse, he or she may accuse other people of stealing.
  • People may have changes in how they think or make decisions. This could manifest in a variety of ways, such as a lack of fiscal restraint or a disregard for personal hygiene.
  • He or she may withdraw from hobbies, social events, etc. This could make it difficult for them to follow their favorite team or hobby.

People with Alzheimer’s may undergo mood and personality changes. They can become confused, skeptical, unhappy, afraid, or nervous. They may find it easy to become agitated at home, while they are with friends, or when they are outside of their comfort zone.

Can Alzheimer's and Dementia Be Prevented?

There are no guaranteed treatment options to prevent or provide cure for dementia. However, there are some strategies that show promise in prevention.

Physical activity, blood pressure control, cognitive training, and certain types of diets may help prevent cognitive decline. More research is needed, however, there is some promising evidence giving hope to people with dementia.

Dementia and Alzheimers

Help and Support are Available

Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease that no one should have to battle alone. Resources are out there and support is available. You may want to turn to an organization, like Alzheimer’s Association or Alzheimer’s Society of Canada. They can put you in touch with a support group or clinical trials.

An experienced speech-language pathologist is also able to support you and your family during this time. Apheleia Speech Therapists can help you understand your loved one’s medical condition, especially with cognition, language, and swallowing deficits. We are here to answer any question you have and provide you with answers.

If you or your loved one is going through this difficult time, make sure you aren’t alone. Start by letting us know about you below. We’ll be waiting.

Related Post:

Lauren Templeton - Apheleia Speech Therapy
Lauren Templeton

Owner & Speech-Language Pathologist

Get Started and See How it All Works

Fill out the form below to be taken to a short questionnaire. You can also send us an Email or text/call us at (613) 707-9211.

**By filling out this form you consent that we may contact you at the email and/or phone number provided.

Apheleia Contact Form