Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease: What’s the Difference?

  • By Ashley Bechtloff Springible Contributor
  • Reading Time About 2 minutes
  • PostedMarch 11, 2019
  • Category

More and more I am hearing from my friends about their parents or their friend’s parents that have dementia or Alzheimer’s. It’s a huge fear that adult children have when it comes to our aging parents and there are so many questions. Will they remember who I am? How quickly will it progress? Is there anything that can be done to stop it?

Recently I was thinking about this and took a step back and realized, I have no idea what the difference is between the two. My best friend’s dad has dementia with Lewy Bodies, but how is that different from my co-worker’s grandmother who has Alzheimer’s disease?

In order to understand this better, I reached out to Emily Christensen, State Certified Music Therapist and Music Therapist Board Certified, who specializes in working with patients who have dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease.

Here is what she had to say:

The terms “dementia” and “Alzheimer’s Disease” are often used interchangeably.  What is the difference between these two conditions?

Dementia is not a disease, but an umbrella term used to describe a set of symptoms, which include memory loss, decreased cognitive function, language difficulties, and impaired reasoning. Dementia can be caused by brain disease or injury.

The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, accounting for 60-80% of cases.  Some other diseases that fit under the umbrella of dementia are vascular dementia, which can occur after a stroke, dementia with Lewy Bodies, Parkinsonian dementia or Frontotemporal dementia, to name a few.   Each of these diseases come with their own set of causes and symptoms.

Alzheimer’s disease can include symptoms such as difficulty remembering recent conversations, names or events, in its earlier stages. As the disease progresses, communication can become impaired, and one may develop poor judgment, disorientation, confusion and behavior changes. Physiologically, the Alzheimer’s Association describes changes in the brain as “deposits of the protein fragment beta-amyloid (plaques) and twisted strands of the protein tau (tangles) as well as evidence of nerve cell damage and death in the brain.” (alz.org).

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