What’s the Difference Between Alzheimer’s and Dementia?

difference between alzheimer's and dementia

Are Alzheimer’s and dementia the same thing?

There is a difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia, but they’re closely related. 

Alzheimer’s disease is is a form of dementia. It’s the most common type and accounts for 60 – 80% of all dementia cases. However, not all dementia is caused by Alzheimer’s.

Dementia is an umbrella term for a collection of symptoms and isn’t a disease. It’s caused when the brain is damaged by diseases, like Alzheimer’s or small strokes. Aside from Alzheimer’s, there are 8 other types of dementia you might not have heard about.

The specific symptoms that someone with dementia experiences depends on the parts of the brain that are damaged and the disease that’s causing the dementia.



What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disease. It causes problems with cognitive functions like memory, judgement, decision-making, and behavior. Symptoms are unpredictable, but usually develop slowly and worsen over time.

In the early stages, memory loss and other symptoms are usually mild. In later stages, people often have symptoms like problems with communication, complete dependence on others for care, loss of mobility, incontinence, problems eating, and unusual behaviors like repeating questions or asking to go “home.”

Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. As of now, there is no cure. Current treatments may reduce or delay symptoms, but typically work best in the early stages of the disease.

After symptoms become noticeable, the average Alzheimer’s patient usually lives another 8 years. But depending on age and other health conditions, patients could live from 4 to 20 years.


What is dementia?

Dementia is an overall term for a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory and cognitive skills. It’s caused by physical changes in the brain that are usually triggered by disease, stroke, or injuries.

Alzheimer’s disease is the leading type of dementia. The second most common is vascular dementia which is often caused by stroke or transient ischemic attacks (TIAs or mini-strokes).

Other conditions can also cause symptoms of dementia. Some are reversible, like UTIs, delirium, thyroid problems, or vitamin deficiencies. Others, like Parkinson’s disease, are not reversible.


Recommended for you:
3 Ways to Respond When Someone with Alzheimer’s Says I Want to Go Home
Why Experts Recommend Lying to Someone with Dementia
How Is Dementia Diagnosed? A Geriatrician Explains


By DailyCaring Editorial Team
Sources: Alzheimer’s Association (1, 2), Alzheimer’s Society
Image: HealthAim


  • […] adults with dementia are often struggling to get through the day. They may not be able to think about more than the […]

  • Reply June 29, 2016


    Need more answers my mate has the start of something since last year and tells me to move and find another man no love fights with me and no love making 5 years he also abusive me help and makes bad choices not much money!!!!

    • Reply June 30, 2016

      Connie Chow

      If you’re being abused or feel like you’re in danger, please leave the situation and/or get help right away. Your safety is number one! For advice, a great free resource the Alzheimer’s Association. Their phone number is 1-800-272-3900 and they are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It also sounds like your partner may need medical treatment. Please try to get him to see a doctor for a complete physical and mental evaluation.

  • Reply March 13, 2016

    frena gray-davidson

    The simplest way to state this is: “All Alzheimer’s is dementia but not all dementias are Alzheimer’s.”
    The only reason Alzheimer’s became a dominant term is because in the years from 1969-1972, a number of very big drug companies re-awoke the buried name “Alzheimer’s” in order to start the big campaign for the one-drug fits all dementias.
    In 1969, we hadn’t heard from Dr Alzheimer since his death in 1915.
    While it’s good for people to know dementia is a disease, as opposed to “crazy”, the dominance still of use of the word Alzheimer’s has probably been a major factor in the failure in 40 years to find one useful remedy for intervention.
    Only now, and still not in the majority, is research beginning to explore in a less single-pointed way. To look for one thing to fix “dementia” is like treating smallpox, influenza and Zika as one “fever”.
    No wonder it’s taking so long…………..

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