There is often confusion and misunderstanding with the terms Alzheimer's disease and dementia, but there is a distinct difference.
The term dementia refers to a set of symptoms, not the disease itself. These symptoms might include language difficulty, loss of recent memory or poor judgment. When an individual is said to have dementia they are exhibiting certain symptoms. With a thorough screening including blood tests, a mental status evaluation, neuropsychological testing, and sometimes a brain scan, doctors can accurately diagnose the cause of the dementia symptoms in 90% percent of the cases. (Alzheimer's can be diagnosed with complete accuracy only after death, using a microscopic examination of brain tissue, which checks for plaques and tangles).
Although Alzheimer's disease accounts for 60-70% of cases of dementia, other disorders that cause dementia include: Vascular dementia, Parkinson's disease, dementia with Lewy Bodies and Frontotemporal dementia.
In the early stages, there can be some clear differences between the diseases. For example, in dementia with Lewy Bodies (the second most common cause of dementia) early symptoms of the disease may not be so much forgetfulness, but lowered attention span, recurrent visual hallucinations, and a fluctuation between periods of clear thinking followed by periods of confusion. However, as the specific disease advances, more parts of the brain become affected, and the differences from one cause of dementia to another are subtle.
No two persons are similar in how Alzheimer’s disease impacts them. This holds true for caregivers as well. Alzheimer's disease and related dementias impacts all caregivers differently as well.
If you are caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease, contact Spring Arbor Living for information on Custom Care Plans.