Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and other cognitive disabilities can cause misplaced anger, anxiety, confusion, which can be frightening for the individual living with the conditions and their loved ones.
Dementia is an overall term used to describe symptoms that impact memory, which can affect how one carries out daily activities. Alzheimer’s disease, on the other hand, is a type of dementia and is one of the most common types of dementia. Alzheimer’s progresses over time, heavily affecting memory, speech, and thought processes. While both conditions are from within the same family and have overlapping conditions, it’s important to distinguish between Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia to find the most appropriate treatment and form of management.
The World Health Organization says that 47.5 million people around the world are living with dementia. That number is only likely to increase. Dementia is a group of symptoms that affects mental cognitive tasks such as memory and reasoning. As dementia progresses, it can have a huge impact on the ability to function independently, making it a major cause of disability for older adults.
Symptoms of Dementia
It’s easy to overlook the early symptoms of dementia and shrug them off as old age. It often begins with simple episodes of forgetfulness. People with dementia have trouble keeping track of time and tend to lose their way in familiar settings.
As dementia progresses, forgetfulness and confusion begin to grow. It becomes harder to recall names and faces. The most detrimental aspect of dementia is the fact that the individual’s wellbeing may be at risk. Obvious signs of dementia include repetitious questioning and poor decision-making.
In the most advanced stages, people with dementia become unable to care for themselves. They begin to struggle with daily life even more. Simple tasks become more and more difficult. If dementia continues to progress, it can lead to aggravation and even depression.
Causes of Dementia
Dementia occurs when brain cells are damaged. Many conditions can cause dementia, including degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s. Each cause of dementia causes damage to a different set of brain cells. Alzheimer’s disease is responsible for about 50 to 70 percent of all cases of dementia.
Dementia is the term applied to a group of symptoms that impact memory, but Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease of the brain that slowly causes impairment in memory and cognitive functions. Unfortunately, the exact cause is unknown, and no cure is available.
Damage to the brain usually begins several years before symptoms appear. In Alzheimer’s, protein deposits form plaques and tangles in the brain. This causes connections between brain cells to be lost, and the brain cells begin to die.
The symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia can overlap, but there can be some differences
The symptoms of Alzheimer’s include:
- difficulty remembering
- impaired judgment
- behavioural changes
- difficulty speaking or swallowing,
- difficulty walking
People with dementia will probably share some of these symptoms, but they include or exclude other symptoms that can help make a differential diagnosis. Lewy body dementia for example, has many of the same later symptoms as Alzheimer’s. However, people with Lewy body dementia are more likely to experience initial symptoms such as visual hallucinations, difficulties with balance, and sleep disturbances which people with Alzheimer’s won’t experience.
Currently, there isn’t a way to stop or even slow down dementia. However, some types of dementia are reversible, but most types cannot be and will cause more impairment over time.
Unfortunately, there isn’t an available cure for Alzheimer’s, but options to help manage symptoms of the disease include prescription drugs for conditions such as memory loss, behaviour changes, and depression.
The length of time each of the three stages lasts varies. The average person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s has an estimated lifespan of approximately four to eight years after diagnosis, but some people can live with Alzheimer’s for up to 20 years.
Talk to your doctor or health care professional if you’re concerned that you or loved ones are exhibiting symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. By starting treatment early, you can help you manage the symptom and live a higher quality of life.
At Lynn Valley Care Centre, we provide 24-hour nursing care to all our residents. If you or a loved one are in need of support, please give us a call and we’ll be happy to answer questions.