What's the Difference between Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease?

Dementia is not in itself a disease but rather a group of symptoms that affect certain tasks like memory and reasoning. It is often confused with Alzheimer’s disease, which is entirely different.

Dementia is a term covering symptoms that include impaired thinking and memory and is often regarded as a sign of declining cognitive ability as a result of aging. Alzheimer’s disease can cause dementia, as can Huntington's disease, Parkinson's disease, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

How are Dementia and Alzheimer's different?

Alzheimer’s disease is a common cause of dementia responsible for as many as 50 to 70% of all dementia cases. Alzheimer’s is a very particular form of dementia with symptoms that include impaired thought, impaired speech, and confusion.

The cause of symptoms in a patient with dementia, however, is not immediately known. The symptoms, though, are usually related to identifiable sources. Some forms of dementia, such as a drug interaction or a vitamin deficiency, are reversible or temporary. When someone has dementia, they are experiencing symptoms the source of which is being sought.

Alzheimer’s disease, however, is not a reversible condition. It is degenerative and incurable at this time. Scientists know Alzheimer's disease involves progressive brain cell failure but the reason cells fail isn't clear. Like other chronic conditions, experts believe that Alzheimer's develops as a complex result of multiple factors rather than any one primary cause. The greatest risk factors for Alzheimer’s are older age, having a family history of Alzheimer’s and carrying the APOE-e4 gene. The discovery of additional risk factors will deepen our understanding of why Alzheimer's develops in some people and not others.

How common is Alzheimer’s and Dementia in the USA?

The number of Americans living with Alzheimer's disease or another kind of dementia is growing — and growing fast. An estimated 5.4 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer's disease in 2016.

  • Of the 5.4 million Americans with Alzheimer's, an estimated 5.2 million people are 65 and older, and approximately 200,000 individuals are under 65 (younger-onset Alzheimer's).
  • One in nine people 65 years and older has Alzheimer's disease.
  • By mid-century, someone in the United States will develop the disease every 33 seconds.

Alzheimer's StatsThese numbers will escalate rapidly in coming years as the baby boom generation has begun to reach 65 and beyond, the age range of greatest risk of Alzheimer's. By 2050, the number of people 65 and older with Alzheimer's disease may nearly triple, from 5.2 million to a projected 13.8 million, barring the development of medical breakthroughs to prevent or cure the disease. Previous estimates based on high range projections of population growth provided by the U.S. Census suggest that this number may be as high as 16 million. [1]


Are there care facilities for Alzheimer’s and dementia sufferers?

Alzheimer’s.net provides a state by state listing of facilities (including three Canadian provinces) that support people with Alzheimer’s or dementia. The site also offers support and resources for caregivers.

Technology is making it easier for healthcare professionals and caregivers to monitor and organize resident information. Nurse call systems and memory care systems (such as the Vigil Memory Care System) help keep patients safe and report on and account for every aspect of their day.

What can a family do to help a loved one with Alzheimer’s or Dementia?

Learn as much as you can about the disease and its impact on your family member. Source information that can help you administer care, access outside care when needed, and hire personal caregivers.

Learn too, about communities in the USA that offer a realistic but protected environment where people with Alzheimer’s or dementia can live safely.

Find out about the technology that can assist you in "keeping track" of patients prone to wandering.

These applications (apps) and resources help with Alzheimer’s and dementia patient monitoring and care:

  • MindMate (USA and Canada) is not your ordinary Alzheimer’s or dementia App. MindMate is like a friend and guardian angel - Always ready to help and developed for people living with dementia and their caregivers.
  • My House of Memories allows you to explore objects from the past and share memories together. It can be used by anyone, but has been designed for, and with, people living with dementia and their caregivers.
  • Clevermind is a voice activated iPad app to help stimulate the cognitive abilities of seniors and individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
  • org is an online support community for people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
  • CareZone makes it simpler to take care of yourself and your family. Keep everything organized and easily coordinate with the people that matter to you.
  • The Vigil® Mobile App accesses real-time information from your Vigil Integrated Care Management System™, an innovative computer-based emergency call, nurse call and resident monitoring system designed specifically for the needs of senior living.

Designed for your Apple iPhone or iTouch or Android device Vigil Mobile may be used as a pager alternative for front line care staff or by senior employees and administrators that need a convenient way to monitor the Vigil System from their mobile device.

Other resources:

  1. alzheimer’s.net
  2. Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures 2016 - USA
  3. Stay Active and Safe With Memory Loss – Zoomer
  4. How Tai Chi can help prevent falling as we age
  5. Alzheimer’s Foundation America

[1] Statistics from alz.org – Alzheimer’s Association

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