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

By Wendy Johnstone
June 20, 2016

Many caregivers ask, “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:
• More than 70,000 British Columbians are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia – nearly 10,000 of these individuals are under the age of 65.
• 1 in 11 Canadians over the age of 65 (approximately 500,000 people) has Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia.
• In just five years, as many as 50% more Canadians and their families could be facing Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia.
• As it stands today, the number of Canadians living with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia will more than double within a generation (25 years).
• Alzheimer’s disease is the second most feared disease for Canadians as they age.
• One in three Canadians (36%) know someone with Alzheimer’s disease.
(For more facts and figures, please visit www.alzheimerbc.org and visit Disease Statistics).
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 at: www.alzheimer.ca/testyourknowledge

There are some great resources for people affected by dementia and those caring for them.
– Island Health (VIHA) has a list of reading and web links on “Dementia and Families” at http://www.viha.ca/seniors/dementia.htm
– Family Caregivers of BC has resources on “Dementia Care” at http://www.familycaregiversbc.ca/education/articles/
– Locally, Senior Peer Counseling offers Caregiver Support groups and you can find out more by calling (250) 871-5940.
– The Minds in Motion program is also a great resource that combines fitness and social elements. Please contact the Nanaimo Resource Centre at 250-734-4171 or 1-888-734-4171.

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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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