Many new caregivers are bombarded with the news that their loved ones have dementia, and aren’t quite sure what their first step should be. Educating yourself on the facts of dementia is extremely important in order to provide proper care for your loved one. But many find themselves unsure of the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia, and the many other forms of dementia out there. With so many names and causes, this can be extremely overwhelming for new caregivers.
After seeing and living with bizarre behaviors, personality changes, and forgetfulness, things change after receiving a diagnosis. Although reality sets in after putting a name to these signs and symptoms, caregivers can also breathe a sigh of relief because they are given a sense of direction. What was once the unknown now has a name. It is important as a caregiver, before or after the diagnosis, that you educate and understand the different forms of dementia.
So what is the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s?
Dementia and Alzheimer’s are often used interchangeably, but that is not always correct. This often leads to more confusion throughout the different stages of dementia. Dementia is a set of symptoms, not a disease. Dementia is the irreversible and progressive impairment of a person’s memory, judgment, reasoning, comprehension, and logic to the point where is affects their daily life and activities. Eventually, the ability to do standard activities that allow us to live independently is diminished.
Alzheimer’s disease on the other hand, is a cause of dementia. There are over 86 different types of dementia, Alzheimer’s is just one. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease of the brain that causes dementia, impairs memory and cognitive function.
I often refer to dementia as an umbrella term. Picture dementia as an umbrella and each spoke of the umbrella is a different form of dementia – Alzheimer’s Disease, Lewy Body, Frontal Temporal, Vascular, the list goes on.
As a caregiver, understanding the different types of dementia is crucial because the course and treatment will be different depending on the type your loved one has. A proper diagnosis and understanding of that diagnosis will allow caregivers to know what to expect and plan for. Some dementias can be a long lasting ordeal, while others have much shorter time frame.
Try educating yourself on the main four types of dementia I listed. This is a good place to start if you’re trying to get a better understanding of your future as a caregiver. An informed caregiver is your loved one’s best advocate.
Photo courtesy of Mcbeth