Dementia vs Alzheimer’s
What is the difference between the two ?
Dementia is a syndrome, not a disease. A syndrome is a group of symptoms that doesn’t have a definitive diagnosis. Dementia is a group of symptoms that affects mental cognitive tasks such as memory and reasoning. Dementia is an umbrella term that Alzheimer’s disease can fall under. It can occur due to a variety of conditions, the most common of which is Alzheimer’s disease.
People can have more than one type of dementia. This is known as mixed dementia. Often, people with mixed dementia have multiple conditions that may contribute to dementia. A diagnosis of mixed dementia can only be confirmed in an autopsy.
As dementia progresses, it can have a huge impact on the ability to function independently. It’s a major cause of disability for older adults, and places an emotional and financial burden on families and caregivers.
Dementia is the term applied to a group of symptoms that negatively impact memory, but Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease of the brain that slowly causes impairment in memory and cognitive function. The exact cause is unknown and no cure is available.
Younger people can and do get Alzheimer’s but the symptoms generally begin after age 60.
The time from diagnosis to death can be as little as three years in people over 80 years old. However, it can be much longer for younger people.
The symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia can overlap, but there can be some differences.
- a decline in the ability to think
- memory impairment
- communication impairment
- difficulty remembering recent events or conversations
- impaired judgment
- behavioral changes
- difficulty speaking, swallowing, or walking in advanced stages of the disease
10 Things to Know
The 10 things to know about dementia
Dementia itself is not a disease
It’s actually caused by lots of different diseases. The word ‘dementia’ is just an umbrella term for the symptoms caused by these diseases such as memory loss, confusion and personality change. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause but other dementias include vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies and frontotemporal dementia.(1)
Dementia affects the young too
While it’s true that the majority of people with dementia are over 65, the condition is not a normal part of getting older. The likelihood of developing dementia rises with age, but it’s not a given that an older person will develop it.
It’s not just losing your memory
Most people associate dementia with memory loss, but the condition affects people in a wide variety of ways. That might include changes in behaviour, confusion and disorientation, delusions and hallucinations, difficulty communicating, problems judging speeds and distances and even cravings for particular foods. Everyone’s experience of dementia is different.(3)
It’s still possible to live an independent and active life
There are many people across the world who are facing dementia head on and developing support mechanisms and strategies to live well with the condition. That includes anything from taking up new hobbies to making new friends or advocating for the cause.
Dementia is a global issue
It’s a common myth that dementia is only an issue in the western world. The largest increases in dementia expected over the next 20 years are actually in places like China, India and Sub-Saharan Africa. Dementia is a truly global health issue, affecting 46.8 million people worldwide.(7)
It does not discriminate
Dementia is a condition that can affect anyone regardless of background, education, lifestyle or status.
There is no cure
While some treatments can help people to live with their symptoms a little better, there are no treatments that slow or stop diseases like Alzheimer’s. This means that the diseases will continue to get worse over time unless new treatments can be found quickly.(8)
Your latest memories go first
The retention of new information is most affected, while recollections of things that happened in the past are much more resistant. The loss of recent events is often one of the first, if not the first, symptom of the disease. Typically, memories that are well encoded are those that persons with dementia will remember best.
The costs of dementia affects the entire family
After the person with dementia, caregivers get the most burn from the illness: physically, mentally, financially and emotionally. Caring full-time can leave family members feeling socially isolated and having to meet hidden costs.
131.5 million people worldwide will be living with dementia in year 2050
48.8 million people worldwide was estimated to be living with dementia in 2015. Based on the Alzheimer’s Disease International 2015 report, this number will almost double every 20 years. It is estimated that 131.5 million people worldwide will be living with dementia in year 2050.
10 Warning Signs
10 Warning Signs & Symptoms of Dementia
If someone has never suffered from clinical depression in the course of their lives but develops it later in life (after age 50), it could be an early sign of Dementia.
This does not mean if you’re diagnosed with depression in older age that you will develop Alzheimer’s or other cognitive decline, but it does raise the possibility that you might. Studies have shown that people who suffered from depression after age 50 were three times more likely to develop an Alzheimer’s-related disease, Vascular Dementia, than those that did not.
One of the most common signs of Dementia is memory loss, especially forgetting recently learned information.
Do you easily forget information you just learned? Do you lose track of important dates, names, and events? Do you forget big things even happened? Do you ask for the same information over and over? Do you rely heavily on memory aids like Post-it notes or reminders on your smartphone?
Time and Place
This usually involves disorientation in familiar places, or forgetting where you are, how you got there and why you are there. Additionally, a common sign of Dementia, is also the losing track of large periods of time, or becoming confused about what place in time it currently is.
Signs to take note of in your loved one – Are they getting lost in a new place, or momentarily forgetting the day of the week, but recalling it later?
Having Issues Writing or Speaking
Forgetting simple words, or misusing common words, is often a feature of Dementia. As a result, it may be projected by statements like “that thing you use to pick food up”, when trying to remember the word “spoon”.
Signs to take note of in your loved one – Are they struggling to find appropriate ways to express sensitive subjects, or briefly pausing in conversations to find the right word? Do they have trouble writing and is there a clear difference in their handwriting?
Personality and Mood Changes
A sudden change in mood and personality. Confused, depressed, suspicious, fearful or anxious. Developing routines of doing things and becoming irritable when it is disrupted.
Signs to take note of in your loved one – Has your normally easy-going loved one become irritable and fearful lately? Accusing you of helping to clean his/her house just so you could steal their favourite possessions?
Some people may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers.
Signs to take note of in your loved one – Are they having trouble following a familiar recipe? Making errors when keeping track of their monthly bills?
Misplacing Things and
Losing the Ability to
A person with Dementia may put things in unusual places. They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. Sometimes, they may accuse others of stealing.
Signs to take note of in your loved one – Does it seem like they are leaving their things around randomly and not picking them after?
Withdrawal From Work
or Social Activities
A person with Dementia may start to remove themselves from hobbies, social activities, work projects or sports.
They may have trouble keeping up with a favourite sports team or remembering how to complete a favourite hobby. They may also avoid being social because of the changes they have experienced.
Persons with Dementia may experience changes in judgment or decision-making.
For example, they may use poor judgment when dealing with money, giving large amounts to telemarketers. They may pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean.
Visual Images and
For some people, having vision problems is a sign of Dementia.
They may have difficulty reading, judging distance and determining coloUr or contrast, which may cause problems with driving.
If you notice any of the 10 Warning Signs of Dementia in yourself or someone you know, don’t ignore them. Schedule an appointment with your doctor.
With early detection, you can: Get the maximum benefit from available treatments – You can explore treatments that may provide some relief of symptoms and help you maintain a level of independence longer.
The Impact on Younger People & Their Families
What is Young Onset Dementia ?
Dementia is considered ‘young onset’ when it affects people under 65 years of age. It is also referred to as ‘early onset’ or ‘working age’ dementia. However this is an arbitary age distinction which is becoming less relevant as increasingly services are realigned to focus on the person and the impact of the condition, not the age.
Dementia is a degeneration of the brain that causes a progressive decline in people’s ability to think, reason, communicate and remember. Their personality, behaviour and mood can also be affected. Everyone’s experience of dementia is unique and the progression of the condition varies. Some symptoms are more likely to occur with certain types of dementia.
Dementias that affect younger people can be rare and difficult to recognise. People can also be very reluctant to accept there is anything wrong when they are otherwise fit and well, and they may put off visiting their doctor.
The impact on younger people and their families
Although younger people experience similar symptoms to older people with dementia, the impact on their lives is significantly different. Younger people are more likely to still be working when they are diagnosed. Many will have significant financial commitments such as a mortgage. They often have children to care for and dependent parents too.
Their lives tend to be more active and they have hopes, dreams and ambitions to fulfill, up to and beyond their retirement.