Laughing With Elderly LadyToday, many people don’t understand the difference between Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. By knowing the meaning of both terms you will be able to determine the correct symptoms for you or a family member.

Dementia refers to a set of symptoms, not the disease itself. Some of the symptoms include: memory loss, personality change, and impaired intellectual functions, trauma to the head, brain tumors, stroke or diseases like Alzheimer’s.

These cognitive problems are an obvious change compared to the person’s cognitive functioning earlier in life and are severe enough to get in the way of ordinary daily living, such as social and occupational activities.

A perfect analogy to term dementia is “fever.”

Fever refers to a higher temperature, specifying that a person is sick. But it does not give any evidence about what is producing the sickness. In the same way, dementia means that there is something wrong with a person’s brain, but it does not deliver any information about what is causing the memory or cognitive complications. Remember, dementia is not a disease; it is the clinical presentation or symptoms of a disease.

There are many probable causes of dementia. Some causes are reversible, such as certain thyroid conditions or vitamin deficiencies. If these problems are recognized and treated, then the dementia reverses and the individual can return to their normal functioning.

Nevertheless, most causes of dementia are not changeable. Rather, they are worsening diseases of the brain that decays over time.

Conversely, Alzheimer’s is a specific disease that attacks the brain. It is considered the most common form of dementia and causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms usually grow slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.  In its early stages memory loss is mild, but with late-stage Alzheimer’s individuals lose the ability to convey on a conversation and respond to their situation. Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Those with Alzheimer’s live an average of eight years after their symptoms become noticeable to others, but survival can range from four to twenty years, depending on age and other health conditions.

Alzheimer's is not a typical part of aging, though the greatest known threat factor is increasing age, and the majority of people with Alzheimer's are 65 and older. But Alzheimer's is not just a disease for older people. About 5 percent of individuals with the disease have early onset Alzheimer's (also known as younger-onset), which normally appears when someone is in their 40s or 50s.

Alzheimer’s has no current cure, but treatments for symptoms are accessible. Although current Alzheimer’s treatments cannot stop Alzheimer’s from developing, they can briefly slow the worsening of dementia symptoms and improve quality of life for those with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.

When it comes to screening for Dementia or Alzheimer’s there is no substitute for a thorough examination by a skilled physician.

For more information on care for a loved one suffering from these illnesses contact Safe Harbor at (718)-979-6900.