Wondering about the difference between dementia and Alzheimers? I know when my mother in law started losing her memory I wondered if she had Alzheimers (I had never heard of any other kind of dementia). Here is an overview of what I have learned as a dementia caregiver.
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My Mom's Dementia Story
My mother in law (my husband's mom) had lived with us in Colorado and when we moved back to Clearwater, FL, she started living by herself in her condo.
The very first signs I ever noticed about her problems was that she repeated the same stories over and over again. We would go out for lunch once a week and she would tell me the same story about how her cat curled up behind her head EVERY week.
After that I noticed that she was buying a lot of things and then leaving the boxes laying around because she couldn't figure out how to get them to the dumpster at her condo complex.
And then she started getting two of everything she bought because she would order it once and then order it again.
NONE of those things made us feel at all like she had an incurable disease, we just thought it was Mom getting older (she was in her late sixties at the time).
Fast forward past a whole bunch more signs that we missed and Mom fell, moved in with us and got a diagnosis of Dementia… sigh.
DISCLAIMER GOING FORWARD… I am a caregiver, not a doctor. Get all medical advice from your loved one's doctor, not a blogger on the internet!
What Is Dementia?
The first time I heard someone say dementia I asked for a definition… and WHOA it was way more than just losing your memory!
Signs of Dementia
Here are some signs of dementia that we have noticed in Mom:
- Memory loss
- Repeating herself
- Won't take showers
- Trouble with medicine
- Cancelling doctor's appointment
- Lethargic and weak
- Won't eat
- Drinks to much
- Falling down
Everyone wants a solid list of things to look out for, but each loved one will have different signs and symptoms of what is going wrong.
Kinds of Dementia
This is another thing I didn't understand… that there are different kinds of dementia. Here are some of the most common ones:
This is alcohol related dementia and is also called Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. Yes, the alcohol is the cause but the lack of vitamins and nutrition that comes along with it is what does the most harm. This one is what my Mom has.
Back in Pennsylvania where I grew up we called this “Old Timers” instead of Alzheimers. It was seen to be just a thing that happened when people got older. According to the Alzheimers Association, between 60-80% of people who have dementia have Alzheimers.
Alzheimers is caused by proteins and plaques in the brain.
So Alzheimers VS Dementia is wrong…. rather it is the umbrella… all people who have Alzheimers have dementia, but everyone with dementia doesn't have Alzheimers.
Lewy body dementia
Lewy body dementia is the second most common type of dementia according to the Mayo Clinic. It is also caused by proteins in the brain.
It is closely connected with Parkinson’s disease and is what Robin Williams died from.
Frontotemporal dementia is usually experienced by younger people that some of the other forms of dementia. According to the NIH, usually this shows up as changes to behaviors, judgement and temperament.
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is a much faster form of dementia than the others. Rather than a slow decline over time, most people die within a year of diagnosis according to the CDC.
I have seen lists of up to 20 different kinds of dementia, but I think this list covers most of the big ones that I have heard of associated with dementia.
Alzheimers VS Dementia Wrapup
Hopefully this helps you to understand what kind of dementia your loved one might have.
I KNOW that hearing that they have something incurable and fatal is a shock and my guess is that you are here early on in your caregiving journey.
If you need more help, please check out my list of Dementia Caregiver articles where I try to help with things I have learned over the years caring for Mom.