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Is it dementia or Alzheimer's?


Question:  Please explain the difference between dementia and Alzheimer's. Does dementia progress into Alzheimer's?

Dr. Amy: I am asked this question a lot when I speak about memory loss and cognitive impairment. I know it can be confusing. In a nutshell:

  • Dementia is not a disease
  • It is a general term to describe a set of symptoms that include memory loss and cognitive impairment that is serious enough to make it difficult (or impossible) to carry out everyday activities
  • Dementia can be caused by a number of things
  • There are several different types of dementia, and some are reversible.

Alzheimer’s, on the other hand, is a specific disease.

  • It is a type of dementia
  • It is the most common form of dementia. It is not, however, reversible.

The Alzheimer’s Association has published a lot of useful material on their website about this topic, including this description of the different types of dementia, which you might find helpful.

Caring for someone with Alzheimer's or another form of dementia can be challenging. The more we understand, the better equipped we are to provide compassionate and effective care. At the same time, it is also important to take care of ourselves, as caregivers, and nurture our own health and wellbeing. Having a plan for this is just as important as having a care plan for the person you are caring for. Home Instead has published the online Help for Alzheimer's Families—a wonderful resource for caregivers. They've also published a handbook, Confidence to Care, that is full of tips and insights.

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