Dementia vs Alzheimer Disease – What is The Difference?

The medical terms Alzheimer’s and dementia are very confusing. Many people think of these terms as same but they are not.

Dementia is just a medical condition where the mental ability declines slowly and interferes with the daily functioning of the person. Alzheimer’s is a common cause of dementia. Where Alzheimer’s is a disease, dementia is not.

Learning about dementia vs Alzheimer is a necessary knowledge especially for those whose close relatives or who themselves are suffering from this. It is the basic knowledge that a family should seek to deal with the situation better.

Difference Between Dementia and Alzheimer’s

Dementia is not a specific disease; it is like an umbrella term that covers a wide range of symptoms. These symptoms interfere with the normal functioning of an individual so much that it disturbs the patient’s life. Dementia is caused by some damage in the brain cells that are responsible for behaviors, feelings, thinking, and communication.

The international classification of diseases, 10th Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD 10 Code for dementia) defines dementia as:

“It is a general, nonspecific term that encompasses several underlying major neurocognitive disorders. Behavioral disturbances, including psychotic symptoms, mood disturbance, agitation, apathy, aggression, combativeness, and wandering off”.

Learn more about the classification for dementia here:

Symptoms of Dementia

Some of the most common symptoms that describe the condition of Dementia are:

  • Abrupt changes in thinking patterns
  • Poor reasoning and judgment skills
  • Changes in communication and language skills
  • The decline in attention span and focus
  • A decline in memory

Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease. It is usually caused by some unusual cell damage leading to complex brain changes. It can lead to dementia which worsens with the time. The earliest and most common symptoms that indicate Alzheimer’s is losing the ability to remember new things. This disease affects the part of the brain that is associating with learning.

As it advances, the situation gets worse and leads to confusion, disorientation, and sudden behavioral changes. It usually affects the people of 60 or more.

Is Dementia Genetic?

Many people are concerned if they can inherit dementia or not. Parents are worried that they might pass on their dementia onto their kids. Fortunately, science has revealed that there are very rarer types of dementia that can be transferred from parents to their children. So, there are very fewer chances of the next generation having dementia from the previous ones.

Delirium Vs Dementia:

Another medical term that is mixed up with dementia is ‘Delirium’. Delirium vs Dementia is another confusion that needs clarification. Delirium is just an acute confusional state. Its diagnosis is based on the clinical observation of behavior and cognition, but there are no specific diagnostic tests available for this.

Here are some of the symptoms of delirium:

  • Distraction and inattention
  • An altered level of consciousness that might be accompanied by delusion and hallucination
  • Disorganized thinking
  • Acute onset

In the clarification of delirium vs dementia, dementia is a cognitive decline that slowly progresses. Delirium has a sudden onset and it can fluctuate throughout the day. Delirium is often unrecognizable by the healthcare professional but dementia is readily diagnosed.

For further dementia vs delirium debate, read here:

There are several types of dementia based on specific situations. Here are some of the most common types of dementia:

Vascular Dementia:

It is a ‘cognitive decline’ and usually is caused by the reduced blood flow in the brain. It can be caused by any accident, stroke, or any sudden event. Also, it can be caused by some smaller strokes or events that make the blood blocking gradual and slow. High cholesterol levels can also be the reason for this.

Vascular Dementia Stages Timeline

Although it has no specific symptoms or stages to count in, its progression can be classified in the early stages, middle stages, and later stages of dementia. So, the vascular dementia stages timeline is a slow progression of this disease.

The early stage of vascular dementia includes impaired memory, word-finding difficulty, difficulty with normal functioning, and a decline in mood. In vascular dementia, the changes in personality and mood are also seen. Some people also experience difficulties with balancing and walking with the progression of the vascular dementia stages timeline.

Lewy Body Dementia

Lewy bodies are abnormal clumps of protein that are called alpha-synuclein. It builds up the cortex of the brain that is responsible for the memory and learning part. Common Lewy body dementia symptoms are:

  • Problem with thinking
  • Sleeping issues
  • Problem with driving
  • Unbalanced moves
  • Memory loss

7 Stages of Lewy Body Dementia

If you have someone who is showing Lewy body dementia symptoms, here are the stages to look for:

  • Stage one: No Cognitive Decline – It is undetectable for the patient and the people surrounding him. There are no cognitive symptoms present at this stage.
  • Stage two: Very Mild Cognitive Decline – There might be some subtle noticeable changes in the patient. It involves forgetting names, having trouble with locating the objects.
  • Stage three: Mild Cognitive Decline – It shows some cognitive changes like memory loss, character forgetfulness, and disability to concentrate.
  • Stage four: Moderate Cognitive Decline – Mostly people are diagnosed at stage four. It is a challenging stage showing most of the symptoms like out-of-character difficulty, severe forgetfulness, and issues in performing daily tasks.
  • Stage five: Moderate Severe Cognitive Decline – It is marked as a moderate-severe stage where there are noticeable memory loss changes and the person struggles like life activities.
  • Stage six: Severe Cognitive Decline – At this stage, a high level of support and love from the closed ones are required. There is significant memory loss and many don’t even remember the early stages of their lives.
  • Stage seven: Very Severe Cognitive Decline – It lasts for around 1.5 to 2.5 years and shows a severe cognitive decline. Patients can even lose their ability to talk and walk. They require excessive assistance.

Among these 7 stages of Lewy body dementia, it is very necessary to know what your loved one is going through for better treatment.

Parkinson’s Dementia

Parkinson’s dementia refers to the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease that are accompanied by mental functioning issues, memory issues, and impaired thought processes. Parkinson’s disease affects the nervous system progressively affecting the person’s mobility and daily activities.

It can affect physical movements as well. Also, it can impact their thought process, memory, and other mental functions. When Parkinson’s disease comes to this stage, this is called Parkinson’s dementia.

Frontotemporal Dementia

It is a form of dementia that includes loss of nerve cells in the side and on the front of the brain. The trouble with language, changes in personality and behavior are the common symptoms associated with this. People with FTD also have a hard time writing and comprehending. Symptoms usually show up around age 60.

Alcohol-Related Dementia

It is the type of dementia that results from excess intake of alcohol. It affects normal mental functions, learning, and memory. Other alcohol-related brain injuries are Korsakoff’s Syndrome and Wernicke Syndrome that can also be associated with alcohol-related dementia.

Following are the symptoms of alcohol-related dementia:

  • Personality changes
  • Memory issues
  • Difficulties with memory
  • Impaired learning
  • Decreased initiative
  • Difficulty in logical and creative thinking

Multi-Infarct Dementia

It is a common form of vascular dementia. In multi-infarct dementia, cognitive functions are disturbed due to the damage in blood vessels in the brain. Multiple areas of the brain are affected by this dementia. It is often confused with Alzheimer’s disease and some studies show that multi-infarct dementia can become the cause of Alzheimer’s.

Common symptoms of Multi Infarct Dementia are:

  • Problems with language
  • Numbness
  • Urinary frequency
  • Delusional thinking
  • Lack of emotion
  • Social withdrawal
  • Lack of emotions
  • Difficulty in planning

Digital Dementia

Digital dementia is the term coined by Manfred Spitzer, a neuroscientist. It is described as the breakdown of cognitive functioning due to the excessive use of digital technology. It says that the excessive use of technology will first affect the ‘short term memory’ of the person.

Signs and Symptoms of Digital Media include:

  • Developmental delays
  • Slouched posture
  • Short – term memory loss
  • Uncoordinated movement patterns
  • Balance disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Social seclusion

Learn more about it here:

Canine Dementia

Canine Dementia, also known as dog dementia is an umbrella term for several cognitive forms. It is an age-related neurobehavioral syndrome that leads to a decline in cognitive functioning. It is accompanied by involute depression, which is like a chronic depression in human beings. Canine dementia can also make the dog face loss of awareness about the size and length of the objects. Furthermore, hyper aggression and confusional syndrome are also seen in dogs with canine dementia.

Hearing loss and Dementia

Hearing loss and dementia are very common when a person gets old. The latest researches show that both are linked with each other. Scientists are revealing that the loss of hearing can lead to dementia in older age. This doesn’t mean that every person with hearing loss is meant to have dementia. However, it is seen that severe hearing loss can lead to dementia.

For further information:

Benadryl Dementia

Some medications are thought to be increasing the risk of dementia. Benadryl is said to be one of those. It is an over-the-counter antihistamine medication. Mostly, people use it for allergies and fever. Benadryl can make a person very sleepy.

It is studied that Benadryl doesn’t only stop the effect of histamine to heal the person, it also blocks acetylcholine, a chemical that is responsible for sending messages among brain cells. Blocking this chemical can cause memory loss, confusion, and drowsiness, which all lead to dementia.

Activities for Dementia Patients

If your loved one is suffering from dementia, there are certain activities for dementia patients that can help them manage their situation and make them feel better. You can indulge them in these activities and make them feel good. Here are some activities for dementia patients:

  • You can play games with them. Board games, knowledge games, puzzles, and crosswords would do great.
  • Improvise with them. Don’t force them to think about the past or future. Be with them at the moment.
  • Brain training computer games are best for their mental health.
  • Pretend to be a handyman for them. You can make a handy man-games to help them retain their memories.
  • You can tell jokes to them and make them laugh. Laughter is the best therapy for them after all.
  • Play outside games with them such as football, cricket, or you can go swimming.
  • Have a pet and take care of it with them.
  • Cook or bake something with them. It is one of the best recreational activities for them.

Learn about more activities for dementia patients here:

If you have a loved one in this situation, you ought to support them and assist them in this hard time. Understand their situation, solve the mystery of dementia vs Alzheimer’s and help them feel better with your support.