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Dementia vs. Alzheimer’s Disease: What is the Difference?

If your senior loved one has shown possible symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s, you may be wondering which of the two paths they are headed down – and if there is even a difference between the two.

Both of these conditions can cause dramatic life changes for both you and your senior loved one – but there is a difference between the two, and it’s good to understand that difference so that your loved one gets the care he or she needs.

Read on to learn the differences between dementia and Alzheimer’s, and find out how CareFirst can help you care for your loved one when they are no longer able to live alone.


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Dementia is a general term for a group of symptoms related to impaired cognitive skills and poor memory capabilities.

Its most common and obvious symptom is memory loss or memory difficulty, but it may manifest in other ways — like problem solving difficulties, decreased spatial skills, language issues, short attention, bad judgement, and decreased organizational skills.

According to The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, dementia is a “word for a group of symptoms caused by disorders that affect the brain. It is not a specific disease. People with dementia may not be able to think well enough to do normal activities, such as getting dressed or eating. They may lose their ability to solve problems or control their emotions. Their personalities may change. They may become agitated or see things that are not there.”

Some causes of dementia, including specific vitamin deficiencies or thyroid conditions, may be discovered and treated – and the dementia can go away. Unfortunately, though, most causes of dementia cannot be reversed and will worsen over time.

Alzheimer’s Disease

Dr. Alois Alzheimer discovered changes in a woman’s brain tissue who had passed away after experiencing an unusual mental illness back in 1906. The woman had suffered memory loss, unpredictable behavior, and language problems. As she examined the woman’s brain, Dr. Alzheimer discovered clumps of protein plaques and tangled-up fibers.

Today, we know Alzheimer’s Disease as a very specific brain disease that results in dementia. It literally destroys brain cells, which can lead to memory loss, poor thinking skills, and odd behavior. Alzheimer’s symptoms are generally so severe that every area of the patient’s life is impacted. Because there is no cure, the disease’s slow progression ultimately leads to death.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s include:

  • getting lost in familiar places
  • asking the same questions over and over
  • difficulty with money and bill-paying
  • poor decision-making skills
  • misplacing items frequently
  • taking a longer time than usual to complete daily tasks
  • behaving unusually

Over time, an individual with Alzheimer’s may not be able to communicate and may not recognize themselves or their loved ones.

What type of care is required for Alzheimer’s and dementia?

We discuss key differences and similarities in the two diagnosis as well as suggested types of care in our blog “Difference In Care“. Learn more, here.

Do You Need Help Caring for Your Senior Loved One?

CareFirst is there for your loved one when you need help. Contact us today for more information on the benefits of private home care.