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

What’s the difference between dementia and Alzheimer's?
3 min read

Today, more than 850,000 people in the UK are living with dementia, including over 520,000 with Alzheimer’s disease. Not everybody knows that the two terms are far from being interchangeable. Read on to find out more about the main differences.

Are dementia and Alzheimer’s the same disease?

Dementia is not a disease, but it identifies a group of symptoms that may include:

  • Memory loss

  • Changes in personality and mood

  • Difficulties in problem solving, thinking and speaking

Dementia is caused by a range of diseases affecting the brain, including Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s is a disease, and is the most common cause of dementia.

What are the causes of dementia?

As we mentioned, dementia is a set of symptoms. These symptoms can be caused by an array of different diseases that produce a loss of nerve cells in the brain. Dementia is progressive, so the symptoms will get worse with time.

There are more than 100 known causes of dementia, including:

  • Alzheimer’s disease: abnormal ‘plaques’ and ‘tangles’ build up inside the brain and cause nerve cells to die.

  • Vascular dementia: the second most common cause of dementia, it usually starts after a stroke or ‘mini strokes’. The lack of oxygen to the brain causes nerve cells to die.

  • Dementia with Lewy bodies: abnormal structures (Lewy bodies) form in the brain and cause nerve cells to die. Symptoms may include tremors and hallucinations.

  • Frontotemporal dementia: starting with clumps of protein forming in the forehead part of the brain. It can develop at a younger age (around 60 years old).

You can develop more than one type of dementia at the same time (mixed dementia), with symptoms from multiple diseases.

It is important for the diagnosis to specify what type of dementia you have. This way, you’ll be able to learn how to better cope with the symptoms and how to set up the most appropriate dementia care.

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s is the most common disease causing the set of symptoms called “dementia”. The damages to the brain - which start long before the first symptoms appear - are caused by ‘plaques’ and ‘tangles’ which disrupt the communication between nerve cells.

Although there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s, treatments and personalised Alzheimer’s care can alleviate the symptoms and improve the quality of life of people affected by this progressive disease.

What are the symptoms of Alzheimer’s?

Everyone’s experience of Alzheimer’s is unique: each person affected will have slightly different symptoms. Also, symptoms will change over time as the disease progresses.

These are the most common signs you can expect to experience in the early stages of Alzheimer’s:

  • Memory lapses

  • Forgetting how to do simple tasks

  • Feeling lost and not recognising where you are

  • Forgetting names

  • Difficulty solving problems and making decisions

In the later stages of Alzheimer’s, symptoms will be likely to also include:

  • Sudden mood swings (with possible signs of depression)

  • Poor or impaired judgement

  • Difficulties walking and eating

  • Hallucinations (more rare, but possible)

Read more about how to identify the early warning signs of Alzheimer’s, and what to do if you suspect you or a loved one may have the disease.

Further resources

Check out these charities for more information about Alzheimer’s and dementia, and to find local support:

How SuperCarers can help

Personalised home care that is designed to meet your needs is ideal when you require help with a disease that progresses over time. Private care should change along with your or your loved one’s conditions, in order to suit your symptoms.

At SuperCarers, we can match you with professional home carers in your local area who have specialised in conditions related to dementia and Alzheimer’s. These are some examples of what carers on our platform can do to ensure you live an independent and dignified life:

  • Help with personal care like bathing, dressing and eating

  • Engage in mentally stimulating activities

  • Facilitate social interaction and limit self-imposed isolation

  • Help maintain familiar routines

You can find more information by visiting SuperCarers’ website. Prefer to chat? Give us a call on 020 8629 1030 and one of our care advisors will be happy to assist and answer any question you may have about home care.

You can also find more information on our comprehensive guide to living with dementia.