Dementia vs. Alzheimer’s Disease – What’s the Difference?

Caring for an aging loved one is often complicated by a decrease in cognitive ability, ranging from simple forgetfulness to full-fledged Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). The difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease is that dementia is not a disease itself, but a symptom and Alzheimer’s Disease is one of the causes of that symptom.  

Another cause of dementia, multi-infarct dementia or MID, is also common and often confused with Alzheimer’s. It occurs when blood clots block small blood vessels in the brain and destroys brain tissue.  

Problems can go unrecognized for a long time if the person dealing with them does not receive regular visits from family or friends. On the phone, people with dementia often make up answers to questions, concealing their true situation.  

You may notice on a phone call your mother or father makes it seem like everything is fine and that they are cooking regularly, managing all of their medications, and paying all the bills with no problems. However, your surprise visit may reveal that they were concealing some serious problems, which might be an indication that your loved one is suffering from some form of dementia.  

In most cases, dementia means that someone may have significant memory problems as well as other cognitive difficulties, which can be severe enough to get in the way of daily living. A visit and investigation of their true situation is definitely the first step in recognizing whether your loved one suffers from some form of dementia or the early onset of Alzheimer’s Disease.  

Dementia can be caused by many other factors as well, some of which are even reversible, such as certain thyroid conditions or vitamin deficiencies. Reactions to medications, brain tumors, urinary tract infections (UTI), and metabolic imbalances can all lead to cognitive impairment.  

If these causes are identified and treated, the person could return to a normal functioning state. For all these reasons, an accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease or other forms of dementia can be tricky to confirm and may require observation for some period.  

Not all physicians are experts in dementia or understand Alzheimer’s Disease, and since so much depends on an accurate assessment, it is important to consult with a highly recommended neurologist or geriatric specialist.  

Need help understanding the complex world of senior care? Get a free copy of Florida’s 5 Step Guide to Senior Care by calling our senior care expert hotline at 941-676-3411.

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