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What is the Difference Between Dementia and Alzheimer’s?

Dementia Care FAQs

Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are sometimes used interchangeably, but there is a difference to the meaning of these terms.

Initially, it can be difficult to understand the differences between dementia and Alzheimer’s, especially as it seems that they are so closely linked. Here, we will explain both terms to help you better understand their differences.

What is dementia?

Dementia is a broad term for the symptoms that occur when the brain becomes damaged in a certain way. Diseases and causes of dementia include:

  • Vascular dementia
  • Mixed dementia
  • Dementia with Lewy bodies
  • Frontotemporal dementia

The symptoms that fall under the term dementia can vary depending on the part of the brain that has been damaged, and the disease causing them. You can read more about the different types of dementia in our article ‘What is Dementia?’.

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What is Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s is a disease that affects the brain, and leads to dementia. It occurs when an abnormal build of proteins, called plaques and tangles, build up inside the brain, sometimes over a number of years. The disruption caused by these proteins affects nerve cells and causes them to die.

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease. This means it gradually gets worse over time. At the moment, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s. That being said, there are treatments available in some areas that can make symptoms more manageable, or slow the pace of their progression.

The differences between Alzheimer’s and dementia

The most important difference to remember between Alzheimer’s and dementia is that dementia is not a disease. It is, in fact, just a term to describe a set of symptoms. The reason why these terms are used so often together is that the effects of Alzheimer’s are usually characterised by dementia. That is, symptoms such as memory loss, difficulties solving problems and a slowing down of thought processing.

These symptoms can be caused by a range of different diseases, including but not limited to Alzheimers.
Are dementia and Alzheimer’s treated differently?

As dementia can be caused by diseases and conditions other than Alzheimer’s, treatment of the symptoms will vary depending on the cause. However, in many cases, treatments for dementia and Alzheimer’s will be similar as they tend to overlap.

Treatments for Alzheimer’s may include medication to treat various symptoms, such as antipsychotics or antidepressants for behavioral changes and other types of medications that address symptoms including memory loss and problems sleeping.

Getting help & support

If you are concerned that either yourself or a loved one is living with Alzheimer’s and dementia, it’s important to talk to a health professional for a formal diagnosis.

While there is no cure for dementia or Alzheimer’s yet, there is a wide range of support available for those living with them and individuals caring for loved ones. At Lovett Care, we provide residential care, dementia care and day care and our friendly team are specifically trained in caring for those living with the symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

For an informal, confidential chat around how we can support you, please get in touch with our team.

You can also find more helpful resources online from the following sources:

Alzheimer’s Society

Dementia Friends

Dementia UK