What’s the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia?

By Wendy Johnstone
October 1, 2015

handsA lot of caregivers ask me, “What’s the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease?”

Dementia is an umbrella term that refers to the many different types of dementia.  Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common type of dementia, accounting for approximately 64% of all cases in Canada.  Other types of dementia include vascular dementia, Pick’s Disease, Lewy-Body and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

A few facts about Alzheimer’s and dementia:

There’s a general misconception that memory loss is “just a normal part of aging.”  Dementia is a progressive, degenerative disease that destroys vital brain cells.  It is not a normal part of aging.

As we age, we can expect that some aspects of cognition may decline including remembering people’s names, recounting facts and words, trying to remember where you put an object, the ability to multi-task and reaction time.

However, there are several areas that don’t necessarily decline with age including vocabulary, decision-making, creativity, ability to learn, being able to use language and processing and remembering new information.

Challenge yourself and take a quick test on how much you know about Alzheimer’s Disease.  You can find the survey here.

There are some great resources for people affected by dementia and those caring for them.

BC Guidelines’ “Dementia: Guide for Patients and Caregivers is a helpful resource and can be found here.

Family Caregivers of BC has resources on “Dementia Care” here.

Caregiver support groups can be important resource for caregivers.  Go here  for a listing of support groups in BC.  This list is updated regularly.

The Minds in Motion program, through the Alzheimer’s Society of BC, is also a great resource that combines fitness and social elements.  Many communities offer programs through local community centres. Start by visiting here to find resources near you.

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“You are amazing! What I tried to do in 2 months, you did in 1 week. You’ve helped us navigate the system, made sense of Mom’s disease, and gave back her independence and control. Thank you for making such a difference in Mom’s life and giving us, her family, complete peace of mind.”

– Mike G., Nanaimo, BC

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