What is The Difference Between Alzheimer’s And Dementia?

elderly-parents-care
Elderly Parents Care – A Difficult Decision, With a Positive Outcome
18/05/2018
difference-between-alzheimers-and-dementia

We hear so much about mental health issues these days that it can be difficult to differentiate the terms we are hearing. Every single issue has nuances which are subtly different to another condition, but they do link together in many cases too. This is what makes mental health such a complex and difficult subject to not only discuss, but to deal with too.

Most people would tell you that there is no fun in getting older health-wise, and two of the main conditions which are linked with aging are Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Again, we hear these two terms interchangeably and we hear them frequently, but they are different from one another. In order to not only treat them, but also manage them at home, we need to know the real definition of both, and what sets them apart.

Let’s explore.

What is Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s isn’t dementia per se, but it is a type of dementia which affects the parts of the brain that are responsible for language, memory, and thoughts. In addition, Alzheimer’s can be a cause of dementia as the condition progresses. The main symptoms include changes in speech, confusion, and difficulties with thoughts.

What is Dementia?

The term ‘dementia’ is actually an umbrella under which many other conditions sit. This is why it is such a confusing situation to differentiate not only these two conditions, but several others too, including Parkinson’s and Huntington’s.

Dementia is more associated with aging than Alzheimer’s is, although both tend to be more prevalent in older age groups. Dementia is used to describe the decline in cognitive function, due to the process of aging. This can cause confusion, forgetfulness, agitation, and decline in the general thought process.

So, What Sets Them Apart?

When someone receives a dementia diagnosis, this is done via a doctor or specialist listening to the symptoms and making an assumption of dementia based on that. There are no specific tests to do, such as brain scans or cognitive function tests, and there is no real attempt to find out why. This is considered to be a condition related to the natural aging process of life. The good news is that the treatments for dementia, e.g. certain medications, can actually slow down the process, and sometimes even reverse it in some cases. This reversible effect will only be when the dementia is caused by a deficiency, perhaps in an vitamin, for example.

Alzheimer’s on the other hand requires tests to be done in order for a diagnosis to be made. This will take the form of symptom history, brain scans, and cognitive tests. Only then, will the actual diagnosis of Alzheimer’s actually be made. This is a condition which is degenerative, which means it gets worse the longer it goes on, whilst also being incurable.

The symptoms of both can be quite similar, and the care management side of looking after someone who has either dementia or Alzheimer’s actually follows a very similar route too.

From this, you can see why the two would be confused a lot of the time.

Caring For Someone With Alzheimer’s or Dementia

Many relatives of someone who has either of the above conditions can find it hard to manage the situation, and can find it difficult to give the person what they need. It isn’t just about personal care, it’s really about knowing how to manage the situation without causing distress or anxiety to the sufferer, whilst also minimising the amount of upset which is placed upon the relatives too. For this reason, many relatives decide to enlist the help of nursing homes, but this of course takes the individual away from their own home surroundings, which in itself can be a distressing situation.

It’s a no-win kind of deal in a lot of ways. For this reason, live in caregivers are a good option for those who don’t want to go down the nursing home route, and also for those who cannot afford the high fees of such an establishment. Care costs these days can be high, but around the clock care doesn’t come cheap!

A live in caregiver is able to help with the activities of daily living, whilst also offering a companion for the individual. This also gives the family extra support and guidance and over time this will help everyone be able to not only understand the condition better, but also how to deal with and manage it too.

In order to find the best care services, it’s a good idea to register with a care agency, who can match you up with the ideal professional for your family member. This can also be someone who speaks a different language, if your particular family member originates from a different country to the one in which they live. Basically, it’s about making life easier for everyone involved, and allowing a real understanding of the condition to come about. By doing this, the person who is living with the condition will feel supported and understood, without agitation or confusion, and those around them will gain valuable knowledge and experience of what to do and what not to do.

A Cruel Condition Regardless

Whether it is indeed Alzheimer’s or dementia that has made an appearance in your family’s life, both of them are cruel and confusing conditions to deal with. Seeing a close family member almost slipping away into something you don’t recognise can be heart-breaking, but with proper care and treatment, this can be minimised and managed, to make the situation easier on all involved. Only by ensuring you get the best support available, can you make this entire situation less upsetting and distressing overall.