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  • Writer's pictureAbbey Road Family Care

Understanding Dementia vs. Alzheimer's


Elderly man doing puzzle while in home care

What is Dementia? Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Dementia describes a group of symptoms associated with a decline in memory, reasoning or other thinking skills. Many different types of dementia exist, and many conditions cause it. Mixed dementia is a condition in which brain changes of more than one type of dementia occur simultaneously. Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of dementia cases.


Dementia is not a normal part of aging. It is caused by damage to brain cells that affects their ability to communicate, which can affect thinking, behavior and feelings.


What is Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease that is caused by complex brain changes following cell damage. It leads to dementia symptoms that gradually worsen over time. The most common early symptom of Alzheimer's is trouble remembering new information because the disease typically impacts the part of the brain associated with learning first.

As Alzheimer’s advances, symptoms get more severe and include disorientation, confusion and behavior changes. Eventually, speaking, swallowing and walking become difficult. On average, a person with Alzheimer's lives 4 to 8 years after diagnosis but can live as long as 20 years, depending on other factors. Though the greatest known risk factor for Alzheimer’s is increasing age, the disease is not a normal part of aging. And though most people with Alzheimer’s are 65 and older, approximately 200,000 Americans under 65 are living with younger-onset Alzheimer's disease.


Symptoms of Alzheimer's

The most common early symptom of Alzheimer's is difficulty remembering newly learned information. Just like the rest of our bodies, our brains change as we age. Most of us eventually notice some slowed thinking and occasional problems with remembering certain things. However, serious memory loss, confusion and other major changes in the way our minds work may be a sign that brain cells are failing. Alzheimer's changes typically begin in the part of the brain that affects learning. As Alzheimer's advances through the brain it leads to increasingly severe symptoms, including disorientation, mood and behavior changes; deepening confusion about events, time and place; unfounded suspicions about family, friends and professional caregivers; more serious memory loss and behavior changes; and difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking. People with memory loss or other possible signs of Alzheimer’s may find it hard to recognize they have a problem. Signs of dementia may be more obvious to family members or friends.






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