Ask an Angel: February 23, 2017

Our Ask An Angel correspondent is Arlene Petersen, Life Care Navigation Specialist in the area of senior home care.

Q. How is dementia different from Alzheimer’s? Aren’t they the same thing?

A. Dementia and Alzheimer’s are often considered to be the same thing. However, they are not. Dementia is not a disease but rather is an “umbrella” term that encompasses several diseases, which many impair cognitive thinking and memory. It is easy to use these terms interchangeably. But let’s look at the difference between these terms. The National Institute on Aging (NIA) defines Dementia as having loss of cognitive functioning to the extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities. Some forms of dementia can be treated and possibly reversed. Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, is a disease that affects the memory and falls under the umbrella of dementia. So, there are many types of dementia, which we won’t list here, but know that Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease and there is no cure for it. Diligent research by many organizations and scientists is ongoing, in search of a way to conquer this disease. There is medication available to help ease some of its symptoms, and a conversation with a qualified physician will shed some light on those options. It is important to work with a skilled doctor who can navigate through the various forms of dementia. A proper diagnosis is very important so that a care plan that works for everyone can be implemented. If you suspect that this disease is affecting you or a loved one, your doctor can perform a cognition test. Caring for someone affected can be challenging, and learning about the disease will empower families to care for loved ones with dignity and compassion.

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