The terms “dementia” and “Alzheimer’s disease” can be confusing. Many people believe they are synonymous, but the two words mean different things.
Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability that is severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, but Alzheimer’s is a specific disease. Dementia is not.
Learning about the two terms and the difference between them is important and can empower individuals with Alzheimer’s or another dementia, their families, and caregivers with necessary knowledge.
Dementia describes a group of systems associated with a decline in memory, reasoning, or other thinking skills. Many different types of dementia exist and many conditions cause it. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases.
Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease that is caused by complex brain changes following cell damage. It leads to dementia symptoms that gradually worsen over time. The most common early symptoms of Alzheimer’s is trouble remembering new information because the disease typically impacts the part of the brain associated with learning first.
As Alzheimer’s advances, symptoms get more severe, including disorientation, confusion, and behavior changes. Eventually speaking, swallowing, and walking become difficult. Research has not made great headway towards prevention or a cure.
Though the greatest known risk factor for Alzheimer’s is increasing age, the disease is not a normal part of aging. Although most people with Alzheimer’s are 65 and older, approximately 200,000 Americans under 65 have younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Help and support are available
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another dementia, you are not alone. The Alzheimer’s Association is the trusted resource for reliable information, education, and support to millions of people affected by the disease. The Desert Southwest Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association is located in Phoenix, and the 24/7 Helpline is 800-272-3900.
This is the last article before our Robson Ranch Walk to End Alzheimer’s on Nov. 16. Join us, your neighbors, and friends for a great way to start your Saturday. You can be on your way to your next activity about 10:30 a.m. The wonderful feeling of “giving back” can’t be beat! For additional information, contact one of our captains: Linda Farestad, Mary Beth Fisher, Jane Kihlstrom, Terry Price, Laurie Waluk, or Gerald and Carolyn Wittman. Let’s beat this year’s goal of $22,000!