Alzheimer’s disease affects 5.7 million people in the United States. This disease is so prevalent among seniors that someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer’s disease every 65 seconds. Even more startling is that one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease makes up approximately 70 percent of dementia-related cases.
It’s a given that Alzheimer’s disease is a stealthy, predominant killer. Dementia, as a condition, is in some aspects, similar to Alzheimer’s disease. Technically, however, clear distinctions exist between the condition and the disease. People often confuse dementia with Alzheimer’s disease or vice versa. The misperception is no surprise, since Alzheimer’s disease falls under the umbrella term commonly known as dementia.
The easiest way to differentiate dementia from Alzheimer’s disease is to liken dementia to a common cold. Any number of virus strains or allergies may have caused the cold. Although the symptoms of the cold are clearly present, the exact cause of the symptoms may not always be known—so too with dementia. Alzheimer’s, in contrast, displays particular, identifiable indicators of the disease. Regardless of what form of dementia someone suffers from, receiving memory care in their home can help immensely.
Syndrome vs. Disease
Dementia is considered a syndrome, not a full-fledged disease, like Alzheimer’s. Without a diagnosis, dementia cannot be classified as a disease. Rather, a group of symptoms more readily defines the condition known as dementia. A person with dementia, for instance, suffers from symptoms that affect memory and reasoning. Cognitive decline is usually present in persons with dementia.
Alzheimer’s is a specific disease of the brain that progressively attacks mental functions, like memory and cognition. Brain cell connections are lost, and, in severe instances, brain shrinkage occurs due to the disease’s unflinching grip. The resulting cognitive impairment leads to death within a few years.
Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are closely linked and spur similar symptoms in affected individuals. In fact, symptoms can overlap.
In both dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, the sufferer experiences impairments in memory, thinking and communication. Lewy body dementia is a type of dementia that causes hallucinations, problems with balance and troubled sleeping.
People with Alzheimer’s disease display very specific symptoms. These include changes in behavior, challenges with recalling events, people or conversations, impairments in judgment, difficulty swallowing, speaking or walking and depression.
Despite the similarity in symptoms, medical professionals can provide an accurate diagnosis when certain symptoms are either excluded or present.
Known vs. Unknown Causes
Dementia occurs as people progress in years. Older people whose brain cells are damaged are likely to experience dementia. In daily life, billions of brain cells communicate with each other through electrical signals. The back and forth communication between brain cells relies on oxygen and nutrients. When oxygen- or nutrient-deprived brain cells die, the nerve cells do not regenerate. As too many critical components—nerve cells—in our brains perish, cognitive functions decline and an unwelcome case of dementia emerges.
When nerve cells die in certain parts of the brain, consequences occur. The hippocampus, which is responsible for memory, often takes the first hit. Alzheimer’s disease results when this part of the brain undergoes nerve cell deaths.
Dementia may also be caused by other diseases. Stroke, depression, HIV and a chronic drug habit can provoke the onset of dementia. Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases can also spur dementia. Alzheimer’s, being a degenerative disease, is also a trigger for dementia.
No one knows specifically what causes Alzheimer’s disease, however. Plus, Alzheimer’s disease can only be precisely diagnosed when the affected individual undergoes an autopsy after death. The diseased brain must be examined under a microscope in order to diagnose the disease. Physicians often (about 90 percent of the time) accurately diagnose Alzheimer’s disease while the sufferer is alive.
Cure vs. Management
Dementia can be treated, but most often the condition is irreversible (few dementias are reversible). Dementias caused by vitamin deficiencies or medication interactions, for example, may be temporary or reversible. The type of treatment prescribed depends on what caused the dementia. People positively respond to treatment when dementia occurs due to drugs, hypoglycemia or tumors.
Alzheimer’s disease has no known cure. Symptoms of the disease can be managed by medications. Physicians prescribe medications to alleviate sleep disturbances, depression and behavioral changes. Medicines also help with memory loss. Individuals afflicted with Alzheimer’s may resort to alternative medicinal remedies, like coconut oil and fish oil, to improve brain function and general health.
The lifespan of people with dementia is determined by the cause of the dementia. Vascular dementia, for instance, may be slowed down with proper treatment, but the condition adversely affects the sufferer’s longevity.
Alzheimer’s disease, being a terminal illness, significantly reduces the affected person’s quality of life and lifespan. Once a person is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, his or her lifespan can be expected to extend about four to eight years. Seldom, people with the disease can survive for up to 20 years after receiving the diagnoses.
Whether your loved one suffers from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, compassionate care is a necessity. Leaving a senior afflicted with dementia alone at home is a risky scenario. Professional caregivers who are trained in dementia care or Alzheimer’s care are an invaluable support. A caregiver can be hired to provide constant monitoring and offer help with the activities of daily living. Caregivers are especially critical when families cannot be with their aging loved one 24 hours a day.
Turn to Assisting Hands Home Care when your loved one needs dementia home health care. Non-medical caregivers engage in activities that stimulate seniors’ minds, keeping them alert and mentally aware. Examples of such activities include playing board games or cards, viewing photo albums and encouraging physical exercise. Our professional caregivers are skilled in effectively interacting with care recipients who show dementia symptoms.
As a premier home care agency, Assisting Hand Home Care representatives meet with family members and the care recipient to formulate a flexible care plan that caters to the senior’s needs. Our caregivers are licensed, bonded and insured to give families peace of mind. Assisting Hands Home Care offers exceptional memory care services to the communities in North and Central Palm Beach County, Florida.