Search Articles

Find Attorneys

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

  • September 20th, 2022

Senior woman comforting senior man who looks worried and preoccupied.Dementia is a general term that refers to severe memory loss and problems with thinking, behavior, and social skills that interfere with daily life. According to the National Institutes of Health, this neurological condition affects one in seven adults over age 71.

Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia and makes up 60 percent to 80 percent of dementia cases, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most cases of Alzheimer’s occur when people reach their 70s and 80s.

Local Elder Law Attorneys in Your City

Elder Law Attorney

Firm Name
City, State

Elder Law Attorney

Firm Name
City, State

Elder Law Attorney

Firm Name
City, State

Although Alzheimer’s disease accounts for many dementia cases, other types of dementia are distinct from Alzheimer’s disease, such as vascular dementia and Lewy body dementia. Alzheimer’s disease differs from other diseases involving dementia when it comes to its symptoms, effect on the brain, and treatments.

Alzheimer’s Disease

The most prevalent type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, which is the fifth-leading cause of death for adults 65 and over. The illness is marked by difficulty remembering recent events. People with Alzheimer’s can usually recall the past, but have trouble remembering what transpired recently. An individual with Alzheimer’s disease may be able to tell you about their childhood in detail, but not about the previous day’s events. As the condition progresses, people can have challenges walking and talking, and may experience personality changes.

Physicians believe that a buildup of proteins in the brain causes Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease degrades neurons and their connections in parts of the brain involved in memory, and lesions form in the brain, preventing those affected from storing new memories. As the disease progresses, the brain shrinks. To treat Alzheimer’s, doctors prescribe medicine targeting the lesions in the brain.

In some cases, people can inherit a genetic predisposition for the condition. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a parent with Alzheimer’s increases a person’s risk by between 10 percent and 30 percent. However, the Alzheimer’s Society reports that the genetic link is more robust in early-onset Alzheimer’s, where adults show symptoms beginning in their 60s.

Lewy Body Dementia

After Alzheimer’s, Lewy body dementia (LBD) is the second most common type of dementia; people with LBD often also have Alzheimer’s. LBD impairs areas of the brain involved in problem-solving and reasoning and is related to Parkinson’s disease, a neurological disorder affecting movement.

Symptoms of LBD include:

  • Disruption in rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep, where most dreaming occurs
  • Poor regulation of body functions due to problems with the autonomic nervous system
  • Movement difficulties, such as rigid muscles and slow movement
  • Visual hallucinations
  • Cognitive issues, such as confusion, diminished attention, and memory loss

In the brain, an abnormal buildup of proteins, known as Lewy bodies, causes LBD. These proteins are related to Parkinson’s. People with LBD also have the same kind of brain lesions as those with Alzheimer’s.

When individuals receive an LBD diagnosis, physicians often prescribe medications for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Like Alzheimer’s, advanced age is the most significant predictor of LBD. However, a stroke increases a person’s risk of developing the disease.

Vascular Dementia

Although vascular dementia shares symptoms with Alzheimer’s disease, such as memory loss, there are significant distinctions. The characteristic symptom of vascular dementia is slow speaking and thinking, as well as trouble with problem-solving.

Vascular dementia can happen when a stroke blocks a blood vessel in the brain. In many cases, more strokes follow, and the symptoms become more severe with each additional stroke.

Conditions that harm blood vessels and impair circulation, preventing oxygen and nutrients from reaching the brain, can also cause vascular dementia, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Treating vascular dementia typically encompasses treating the underlying conditions. For example, a person with hypertension might focus on taking steps to lower their blood pressure.

People who have vascular dementia tend to experience symptoms earlier than those with Alzheimer’s, as the onset of vascular dementia commonly happens between ages 60 and 75.

Other Types of Dementia

In addition to Alzheimer’s, LBD, and vascular dementia, many other types of dementia exist, including:

  • Frontotemporal dementia — Impairs the front and sides of the brain. People with frontotemporal dementia tend to develop the disease younger than those with other forms of dementia. The average age of onset is between 45 and 65.
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease — Occurs when proteins infect the brain and cause problems with cognition, memory, balance, speech, vision, and mobility. Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease is fatal, with most people passing away within a year of diagnosis.
  • Huntington’s disease — A genetic condition that causes dementia. People can inherit Huntington’s from parents with the disease.

Check out resources for caregivers of individuals with dementia. Or, for support and to learn more about Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders, reach out to your local Alzheimer’s Association chapter.


Last Modified: 09/20/2022
Learn the secrets of estate planning from an expert
ADVERTISEMENT
Medicaid 101
What Medicaid Covers

In addition to nursing home care, Medicaid may cover home care and some care in an assisted living facility. Coverage in your state may depend on waivers of federal rules.

READ MORE
How to Qualify for Medicaid

To be eligible for Medicaid long-term care, recipients must have limited incomes and no more than $2,000 (in most states). Special rules apply for the home and other assets.

READ MORE
Medicaid’s Protections for Spouses

Spouses of Medicaid nursing home residents have special protections to keep them from becoming impoverished.

READ MORE
What Medicaid Covers

In addition to nursing home care, Medicaid may cover home care and some care in an assisted living facility. Coverage in your state may depend on waivers of federal rules.

READ MORE
How to Qualify for Medicaid

To be eligible for Medicaid long-term care, recipients must have limited incomes and no more than $2,000 (in most states). Special rules apply for the home and other assets.

READ MORE
Medicaid’s Protections for Spouses

Spouses of Medicaid nursing home residents have special protections to keep them from becoming impoverished.

READ MORE
Medicaid Planning Strategies

Careful planning for potentially devastating long-term care costs can help protect your estate, whether for your spouse or for your children.

READ MORE
Estate Recovery: Can Medicaid Take My House After I’m Gone?

If steps aren't taken to protect the Medicaid recipient's house from the state’s attempts to recover benefits paid, the house may need to be sold.

READ MORE
Help Qualifying and Paying for Medicaid, Or Avoiding Nursing Home Care

There are ways to handle excess income or assets and still qualify for Medicaid long-term care, and programs that deliver care at home rather than in a nursing home.

READ MORE
Are Adult Children Responsible for Their Parents’ Care?

Most states have laws on the books making adult children responsible if their parents can't afford to take care of themselves.

READ MORE
Applying for Medicaid

Applying for Medicaid is a highly technical and complex process, and bad advice can actually make it more difficult to qualify for benefits.

READ MORE
Alternatives to Medicaid

Medicare's coverage of nursing home care is quite limited. For those who can afford it and who can qualify for coverage, long-term care insurance is the best alternative to Medicaid.

READ MORE
ElderLaw 101
Estate Planning

Distinguish the key concepts in estate planning, including the will, the trust, probate, the power of attorney, and how to avoid estate taxes.

READ MORE
Grandchildren

Learn about grandparents’ visitation rights and how to avoid tax and public benefit issues when making gifts to grandchildren.

READ MORE
Guardianship/Conservatorship

Understand when and how a court appoints a guardian or conservator for an adult who becomes incapacitated, and how to avoid guardianship.

READ MORE
Health Care Decisions

We need to plan for the possibility that we will become unable to make our own medical decisions. This may take the form of a health care proxy, a medical directive, a living will, or a combination of these.

READ MORE
Estate Planning

Distinguish the key concepts in estate planning, including the will, the trust, probate, the power of attorney, and how to avoid estate taxes.

READ MORE
Grandchildren

Learn about grandparents’ visitation rights and how to avoid tax and public benefit issues when making gifts to grandchildren.

READ MORE
Guardianship/Conservatorship

Understand when and how a court appoints a guardian or conservator for an adult who becomes incapacitated, and how to avoid guardianship.

READ MORE
Health Care Decisions

We need to plan for the possibility that we will become unable to make our own medical decisions. This may take the form of a health care proxy, a medical directive, a living will, or a combination of these.

READ MORE
Long-Term Care Insurance

Understand the ins and outs of insurance to cover the high cost of nursing home care, including when to buy it, how much to buy, and which spouse should get the coverage.

READ MORE
Medicare

Learn who qualifies for Medicare, what the program covers, all about Medicare Advantage, and how to supplement Medicare’s coverage.

READ MORE
Retirement Planning

We explain the five phases of retirement planning, the difference between a 401(k) and an IRA, types of investments, asset diversification, the required minimum distribution rules, and more.

READ MORE
Senior Living

Find out how to choose a nursing home or assisted living facility, when to fight a discharge, the rights of nursing home residents, all about reverse mortgages, and more.

READ MORE
Social Security

Get a solid grounding in Social Security, including who is eligible, how to apply, spousal benefits, the taxation of benefits, how work affects payments, and SSDI and SSI.

READ MORE
Special Needs Planning

Learn how a special needs trust can preserve assets for a person with disabilities without jeopardizing Medicaid and SSI, and how to plan for when caregivers are gone.

READ MORE
Veterans Benefits

Explore benefits for older veterans, including the VA’s disability pension benefit, aid and attendance, and long-term care coverage for veterans and surviving spouses.

READ MORE