Many people, including some health professionals, use the terms dementia and Alzheimer’s interchangeably. However, the two terms aren’t synonymous. Understanding the differences between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is critical in treating the conditions.
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a group of symptoms affecting memory, communication skills, and the ability to perform routine tasks. Saying a person has dementia is analogous to saying someone has a sore shoulder. Just like the shoulder pain may be caused by arthritis, bursitis, or even a torn rotator cuff, dementia can be caused by a variety of health conditions. To be classified as having dementia, a person must have deficits in at least two of the following areas:
- Reasoning and judgment
- Focus and concentration
- Visual perception
- Speech and communication
It’s only after the underlying cause of these symptoms is identified that the appropriate treatment can be determined.
Alzheimer’s disease is a specific condition as well as the most common cause of dementia symptoms. Several other health issues can also cause dementia, such as Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and various vascular conditions. Even drug use and vitamin deficiencies due to malnutrition can cause dementia symptoms.
Many forms of dementia share symptoms such as forgetfulness, confusion, communication impairment, and disorientation. Other symptoms can vary depending on the specific form of dementia. For example, individuals with Alzheimer’s disease may experience depression, apathy, impaired judgment, and changes in visual perception. Those with dementia caused by Huntington’s or Parkinson’s disease typically exhibit involuntary movements in the early stages of the condition. A person with Lewy body dementia typically experiences hallucinations and other visual disturbances during the initial stages of the disease. These subtle differences in symptoms and when they appear can be helpful in making a diagnosis and determining the course of treatment.
Dementia can be challenging for seniors to manage, but they can maintain a higher quality of life with the help of professional dementia care. San Antonio seniors can benefit greatly from the Cognitive Therapeutics Method (CTM), an activities-based program designed to promote cognitive health and delay the onset of dementia. CTM is included at no additional charge with any of the in-home care plans provided by Home Care Assistance.
Alzheimer’s disease is typically treated with various medications that can address behavioral changes and memory loss. Treatments for other forms of dementia may vary based on the underlying cause. For example, individuals with vascular dementia receive treatments aimed at preventing strokes and limiting further damage to the blood vessels in the brain. Regardless of the specific cause, most individuals with dementia will need significant supportive care from family members and professional caregivers once the condition reaches an advanced stage.
Caring for a senior loved one can be challenging for families who don’t have expertise or professional training in home care, but this challenge doesn’t have to be faced alone. Family caregivers can turn to San Antonio Home Care Assistance for the help they need. We provide high-quality live-in and respite care as well as comprehensive Alzheimer’s, dementia, stroke, and Parkinson’s care.
Alzheimer’s disease and most other forms of dementia aren’t curable. The goal of treatment is to slow the progression of the disease and enhance quality of life for as long as possible. In rare cases, such as when dementia is caused by a severe vitamin deficiency or a brain tumor, cognitive function may increase once the underlying condition is treated.
If your senior loved one has been diagnosed with a serious condition and needs help with tasks like meal prep, transportation, bathing, and grooming, reach out to Home Care Assistance, a leading provider of home care service families can trust. We also offer comprehensive care for seniors with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. If you need professional care for your loved one, reach out to one of our Care Managers today at (210) 495-6300.