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Dementia vs. Alzheimer’s – What is the Difference?

With an increasing number of Americans suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s, many people might not know the difference between the two diseases. Interestingly enough, Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia. Dementia is a general term used to describe a decline in mental ability that is severe enough to effect daily life. Dementia is broadly used to describe a range of symptoms associated with memory loss. While these symptoms can vary greatly, at least two of the following five areas must be significantly impaired to be considered dementia: memory, communication/language, ability to focus and pay attention, reasoning/judgment, and visual perception. These areas of a person’s life are affected due to damaged brain cells. The damaged cells cause interference and they cannot communicate with the rest of the brain. Depending on the area of the brain the damaged cells are in determines the type of dementia the person will have.

There are many forms of dementia, but Alzheimer’s is the most common accounting for 60-80% of cases. The second most common type is vascular dementia, which occurs after someone suffers from a stroke. Other known forms of dementia are Lewy Bodies, mixed dementia, Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease, a form of dementia, causes problems with a person’s memory, thinking and behavior. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease where symptoms worsen over a number of years. In early stages, memory loss is very mild, but as time goes on individuals will lose the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to their environment. The majority of people with Alzheimer’s are 65 years or older, but some people in their 40s or 50s are known to have early onset Alzheimer’s. Those with the disease live an average of eight years after their symptoms are first noticed, but survival can range from four to 20 years. Sadly there is no cure for Alzheimer’s at this time. There are a number of treatments that can help slow the worsening of symptoms. To read a full list of various treatments, click here. The most common early symptom of Alzheimer’s is difficulty remembering newly learned information. As the disease advances through the brain it leads to more severe symptoms including disorientation, mood and behavior changes, more serious memory loss and difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking. In the beginning stages, many families are able to care for their loved ones at home. As time goes on, some families realize they do not have the right tools and resources to continue to care for their loved ones. Luckily for those families there are many Alzheimer’s assisted living facilities that specialize in caring for those with all types of memory loss diseases. These facilities have staff trained specifically to care for memory loss seniors and structure their care around brain stimulating activities and food to help slow down the disease. Alzheimer’s assisted livings were started to provide a certain type of care, but now have grown into places where families who battle this terrible disease can find comfort and support along with top notch care for their loved ones.

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