April 1, 2022
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Alzheimer's Vs Dementia Symptoms: How to Know the Difference

Most confuse Alzheimer’s vs dementia symptoms and think it’s the same. 

While these have certain similarities, such as forgetfulness, each has a distinctive difference. 

So how would you know if your loved one has Alzheimer’s vs dementia symptoms? 

Let’s check it below.

Alzheimer’s vs dementia symptoms: What’s the difference?

Alzheimer's disease and dementia are often thought of as the same type of disease. 

But ‌Alzheimer’s disease is just one form of dementia. 

You can think of dementia as several conditions with different branches. It includes problems with thinking, communication, and memory. The symptoms become severe enough to interfere with daily life and activities.

Alzheimer's Vs Dementia Symptoms and differences

Brain injuries, nerve damage, and infections can cause dementia. 

There are over 100 different ‌dementia's described in the medical literature. Although some are rare, making them difficult to diagnose at first glance. 

Many types of dementia have similar symptoms, making them difficult to diagnose. 

However, each type has distinct features that affect how it develops and progresses.

Read more about the most common symptoms of dementia here

Alzheimer’s Disease

Out of 9 million Americans living with dementia,  5 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. 

It makes up between 60 and 80 percent of cases of dementia. 

In Alzheimer's disease, beta-amyloid protein plaques build up in the brain, and nerve cell connections degenerate. Brain cells eventually die, and the brain shrinks dramatically.

While there are several medications available to treat Alzheimer’s disease, there’s still no cure for it to this day. 

These medications can help manage cognitive and behavioral symptoms. It can include memory loss, confusion, sleep problems, and depression. Some can even slow down the progression of dementia symptoms. 

Eventually, Alzheimer’s disease can also cause death. 

Risk factors of Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer's Vs Dementia Symptoms - confusion

Most cases of Alzheimer’s disease first appear in seniors who are in their mid-60s. 

It is ranked sixth as the leading cause of death in the US.

The disease is named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer. In 1906, Dr. Alzheimer was studying the brain of a woman who ‌died of a strange mental illness.

Her symptoms included memory loss, language problems, and unpredictable behavior. 

After she died, he examined her brain and found many abnormal clumps (now called amyloid plaques) and tangled bundles of fibers (now called neurofibrillary or tau tangles). 

Today, these plaques and tangles in the brain are considered hallmark features of Alzheimer’s disease.

Some of the most important risk factors for Alzheimer's disease are:


The main risk factor for Alzheimer's is increasing age. Most people with the disease are 65 or older. Even with age as the primary risk factor, Alzheimer's is not considered a normal part of aging.

Family history and genetics 

People with a family member who has had Alzheimer's have a slightly higher risk of developing the disease than people without such a family history. Having certain genes that have been linked to developing Alzheimer's increases this risk even more.

Previous head injury

Research suggests that moderate-to-severe traumatic brain injury can increase the risk of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease. It's not clear if milder forms of brain injury can increase the risk of dementia.

Poor cardiac health (cardiovascular disease) 

Alzheimer's Vs Dementia Symptoms - cardiac health

There is increasing evidence that poor heart health in midlife can increase your risk of developing dementia later in life. This may be because poor heart health deprives the brain of vital nutrients and oxygen, causing brain cells to die and increasing the buildup of amyloid plaques and tau tangles in the brain.

Environmental factors 

Exposure to many heavy metals, including mercury, has been linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease in some studies, but other studies have found no link at all. It is no longer widely accepted that aluminum exposure leads to Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s vs Dementia Symptoms to look out for 

The challenge with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is that symptoms won’t be as obvious from the get-go. 

Most of us would brush it off as part of getting older. 

At times, it can be a confusing conversation between you and your mom. Or it can be as simple as your dad trying to look for his car keys, which are right in front of him. 

Sometimes it can show up as things you find in peculiar places like stuffed toys inside the fridge. Or it can be mistaken identities or unexplained lapses in events. 

So how do you know if your loved ones are at risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease? 

Here’s what you need to look out for. 

  1. Memory Loss: This is one of the most common dementia symptoms. It also presents as worse than normal forgetfulness with aging. 

New information is specifically difficult to recall. Therefore, they will rely on family, friends, and caregivers to keep track of appointments, events, and dates.

  1. Difficulty solving problems: Individuals with dementia will find it challenging to follow a recipe to help them cook or to follow driving directions. 

Difficulty adding a tip to a restaurant bill can also be challenged with problem-solving difficulties.  

  1. Finding it hard to do familiar tasks: Persons with dementia find it hard to carry out simple day-to-day tasks like operating a computer, switching channels on their TV, making tea, or finding their way to a familiar destination.   

Alzheimer's Vs Dementia Symptoms - confusion
  1. Confusion about a place or time: Things like judging the passing of time become a challenge. They may get lost in a previously familiar environment.  
  1. Difficulty understanding visuals: Information presented visually proves to be a challenge for a person with dementia. It isn't easy to read, work out color differences, and judge distances.
  1. Problems writing or speaking: People with dementia find it hard to engage in conversations, as they often forget what they said or what the other person said. Use of grammar and spelling decline as well.  
  1. Poor decision-making: Someone with dementia will find it hard to grasp what is reasonable. As a result, they will end up paying too much for something, or they will buy things they do not need. Another sign of poor decision-making is not paying attention to their hygiene.
  1. Mood changes: Individuals with dementia are often moody and can become fearful, anxious, depressed, and irritable with little notice or cause.

Caring for a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease

It is important to note that a diagnosis of Alzheimer's or dementia is not just a diagnosis for the patient. It can be a diagnosis for the whole family. 

The caregiver has to watch their loved one decline slowly, and there is no cure for Alzheimer's‌.

This is a stressful situation and must be stepped away from to be handled effectively. 

As a caregiver, you cannot take it all on by yourself. If you try to, you will quickly experience burnout and be less helpful to your loved one.

Caregiving can feel more of a burden and responsibility instead of a service. 

That’s why getting help is a must! 

Alzheimer's Vs Dementia Symptoms - caregiver

Any friends, family, paid caregivers, adult daycare center, or respite care are ways to help you maintain your sanity and be the best person you can be for your loved one when you are together. 

Another part of being present is to use a gratitude journal

The gratitude prompts can help you reframe how you look at your situation. It can also help you maintain the mental resilience you need to keep going. 

Without this needed time for pause, we are just reacting to the environment which is full of constant stressors.

Final thoughts 

It's tricky to fully identify Alzheimer's Vs Dementia symptoms at first glance. 

It may even take years before the symptoms become confirmed. 

The forgetfulness can turn into anxiety and constant questioning, which leads to anger and emotional outbursts. This can also lead to perseveration and eventually a nearly catatonic state.

Eventually, you will miss the annoying forgetfulness or anxiety. You may even miss the mood swings and anger when your loved one has little left.

The key is to have a good understanding of what to expect so you could adjust and adapt as a family. And also provide the best care for our loved ones as they go through difficult changes in life. 

That's all for today.

Take care, keep mom safe and have a great day!


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