The Difference Between Dementia & Alzheimer’s

Over five million people in the United States have Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a chronic, non-curable disease. Dementia is not the same thing as Alzheimer’s, but they are often grouped together, and used interchangeably. There are significant differences between the two, including prognosis and care plans. We’ll break it down for you …

A Brief Overview

In the early 1900’s, a German doctor named Alois Alzheimer treated a patient with memory loss, strange behavior, and actual shrinkage of the brain. From there, Alzheimer’s disease was introduced. Dementia has been around for ages, and had other names and categorizations until dementia became the acceptable term for the broad category of brain disease.


In 1976, neurologist Dr. Robert Katzman declared Alzheimer’s disease as the most common form of dementia, linking the two diseases together while formally giving them separation. The number of people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease continues to grow each year, as the size and proportion of the American population 65 and older also expands. It’s estimated that by 2025, over seven million Americans will have some sort of brain disease, a 40% increase over today’s numbers.

How Are Dementia and Alzheimer's Different?

Dementia is a group of symptoms. It is not a disease. Think of dementia as an umbrella. Dementia is a brain disorder that affects mental tasks like memory, reasoning, and impairs thinking. It’s often associated with the cognitive decline of aging, and can be caused by a few different things such as Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s, or cannot be linked to any specific cause or ailment at all. Again, dementia is just symptoms. Unlike Alzheimer’s disease, dementia can be reversed in some cases. Hypothyroidism, vitamin B12 deficiency, Lyme disease, and neurosyphillis can all contribute to dementia and can be treated with drug interaction or vitamin supplementation.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, and causes 50-70% of all dementia cases. It’s thought to be caused by the dying of the brain cells responsible for memory function. Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease include impaired thought, difficulty with speech, and confusion. Two-thirds of all cases are women, and the risk factor of contracting Alzheimer’s disease doubles every five years at age 65 and up. Alzheimer’s is not reversible, and is degenerative. Unfortunately, it’s the only disease among the top 10 causes of death in America that cannot be prevented, cured, or even slowed.

Care Options for Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease 

Memory care programs like the ones at Walker Methodist are becoming an increasing necessity as the number of individuals with dementia and Alzheimer’s increase. Memory care is a distinct form of senior care that’s provided by professionally trained and skilled nurses, resident assistants, and staff who are prepared to cater to the individual needs of each and every memory care resident.

We take great pride in assisting our residents in memory care to live their lives as stress-free as possible in comfortable, caring atmospheres. Some of the amenities and programs we offer at Walker Methodist include:

  • Music & Memory: connects every memory care resident to music, which connects them to their memories.
  • Memory Journal: encourages people to share their stories, the most priceless possession anyone will have.
  • Engaging Programming: the most powerful connection is human connection and we place our residents at the center of that notion, always.

Every individual is unique and their care plans must reflect that. Needs change at different stages of the disease, and each family situation is also unique. Choosing care for your loved one can be such a tough decision, and it affects many, many families. We help people make those decisions every day, and with great care and humility.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s isn’t the end of people’s stories, they’re just another chapter.

Talk with a memory care expert about what options are available to you and  your loved ones Contact Specialist

Topics: Care and Programs

Anneliese Peterson

Written by Anneliese Peterson

As the Vice President of Operations, Anneliese Peterson manages the operations and services provided by Walker Methodist’s housing communities. This includes providing leadership and vision for each site in their effort to offer the highest quality customer service.

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