When you notice an older adult is going through mental changes, you will pinpoint the issues to being either Alzheimer’s or dementia. Over 5 million people in the US 65 and up have Alzheimer’s.

Dementia is a major factor for dependency among senior citizens, affecting more than 50 million people across the globe. If someone you know is experiencing symptoms of mental decline, you will need to know the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia to be able to identify which of the two it is. If you want to be able to tell each of the two apart, keep reading.

What Is Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s disease is a physical type of disease that changes the look and function of the brain. If you look at the brain of someone who has Alzheimer’s disease, you will notice an altered structure due to amyloid plaques and tangles that accumulate in the area.

These plaques make it very hard for nerve cells to communicate with one another. In the end, these cells start to die off. Other than the destruction of brain cells, there is also a decline of important chemicals in the brain.

This makes the altered level of communication between cells worse. Messages between cells fail to travel from one area to the next as it normally would.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s

The first symptom most people will have when they have Alzheimer’s is memory loss. When they speak to others or others speak to them (or think to themselves) they will start to have issues recalling recent events. They will have problems retaining new information as well.

Over time, a person with Alzheimer’s will have problems finding the right words to express themselves, make choices, solve issues, or perceive information properly.

At first, it may not be noticeable, or it may come and go but as the disease progresses these symptoms will be more frequent and more severe. Loved ones will need to provide more day-to-day support to someone with Alzheimer’s.

It’s very important to make schedules and provide routines every day as they assist in providing the best memory care services. Keeping routine and offering treatment can ease and help slow down the progression of the disease, but it is not possible to eliminate or cure it.

What Is Dementia?

Many people have a false belief that dementia is a disease you can “catch” when you age. It is not a normal part of the aging process. While age is one of the risk factors, it is not an absolute factor.

Dementia occurs due to injury to brain cells. These damaged cells interfere with the normal ability to communicate.

In general, a person with dementia will have a decline in thinking, reasoning, or memory. It is also possible to suffer from more than one group. A person who has Alzheimer’s can have dementia.

As it progresses, confusion and forgetfulness grow and it becomes more difficult to recall people or names. Personal hygiene issues can occur. In the most advanced stages, it will become impossible for a person with dementia to care for themselves.

Rather than a disease, dementia is a syndrome that is divided into a group of symptoms that alters mental cognitive tasks. There are four main types.

Mixed Dementia

If a person has more than one type of dementia, it is classified as mixed. The most common combination is vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s. Out of the group, it is one few people are diagnosed with.

Vascular Dementia

Vascular dementia takes place when the brain receives little oxygen which causes nerve cells to die (especially within the white matter) off at an accelerated rate. A stroke or diseased blood vessels in the brain can cause this form of dementia.

There will be issues with problem-solving, slower thinking, and a decline in organization and focus that are more apparent compared to memory issues.

Frontotemporal Dementia

Frontotemporal dementia is a group of diseases. It involves the destruction of nerve cells at the intersection of the frontal and temporal lobes. Altered judgment, thinking, language, moving, behavior, and language are the main areas in the brain that this form of dementia affects.

Dementia with Lewy Bodies

Lewy bodies are abnormal balloon-like clusters of protein in the brain. It is very common to see Lewy bodies with progressive dementia.

A person will have issues with visual hallucinations, problems focusing or paying attention, and acting out while asleep. You may also notice symptoms of Parkinsonism such as slow or uncoordinated movement, rigidity, and tremors.

What Is the Difference Between Alzheimer’s and Dementia?

Alzheimer’s and dementia are related, but they are not alike. Alzheimer’s can be a form of dementia as well as a cause of dementia. Alzheimer’s vs dementia is a more specific brain condition, occurring in over 60% of dementia cases. Dementia, on the other hand, is a more general term associated with symptoms like reasoning, thinking, and memory.

Dementia is less specific and is often an umbrella term to describe a variety of symptoms that impact a person’s cognitive function and ability to perform activities. Alzheimer’s disease is a common form of dementia; however, not everyone diagnosed with dementia will have Alzheimer’s’ disease.

No matter which of the two a person suffers from, it makes senior living hard for that person. The need for assisted living and in-home care becomes more necessary as the lack of independence progresses. This makes assisted living services and respite care beneficial for families unable to care for their loved ones 24/7.

Understanding Mental Changes in Older Adults

There is a difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia although the two are often used interchangeably. While both do cause an altered mental status, how it occurs and the symptoms that develop are not the same. Caring for someone you know who has either of the two can be hard alone.

If you’re a high-income family or individual looking for “senior living near me,” contact us for quality senior living in Alaska. Our company is the best assisted living community in Anchorage and can help care for loved ones with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

We provide the best respite care services for a senior living in Anchorage. Your loved one is in good hands as you transition them into a new environment.