Many people wonder what the difference is between Dementia and someone diagnosed Alzheimer’s. Both affect the brain in terrible ways and are frustrating and emotionally draining on the family and friends of those close to the one who is sufferi
ng from these things. This is certainly a growing concern, as increasingly we are involved in the senior care of our parents. Neither is a normal part of the aging process. Regardless of the definitions, no one wants to lose control of their mind, and no one wants to see their loved ones lose control. If we are to remain strong with compassion and kindness towards those we care about, it is important to know what is happening and what we can come to expect. We cannot control what is happening to their mind, but we can control how we interpret their moods, tantrums, and expressions and turn our reactions into compassionate actions.
The medical and technical differences between the two are that one is a syndrome and the other a disease. Even the word syndrome is not easily understood as a separate event from a disease. Technically, a syndrome is a group of symptoms. Grouping symptoms is important to find the classification of type. Groupings include looking at cognitive, behavioral, mood, psychological, and whole body experiences. Someone may have impaired judgment and may be susceptible to dementia. But that one symptom alone does not determine if they do or what type. If that symptom is grouped with occurrences of internal bleeding in the brain, this may be a vascular dementia. Certainly, assessing more symptoms would be necessary to group appropriately. So, the technical order is that symptoms determine a syndrome, and grouping them determines the specific type under that syndrome. Memory loss that is hurtful enough to interfere with daily life combined with physical changes in the brain indicate dementia. Grouping specific symptoms under that general category lead to diagnosing what type of dementia, one of those being Alzheimer’s disease.
An analogy of remembering the difference is to think of an apartment complex. The complex is the dementia and one of the apartments located there is the Alzheimer’s apartment. To know what apartment to go to, you need to know the apartment number, the building number, and if you want to enter, there may be multiple keys and an alarm code. There is a wealth of information and a list of identifiable symptoms located at the website for the Alzheimer’s Association, ALZ.org.
One of the best ways to give care to seniors, parents, or anyone we love with Alzheimer’s disease is to take care of ourselves. Once we are knowledgeable about what we are dealing with, we have taken care of our intellectual health. That care needs to be extended to our bodies and well-being as well, or the caregiver is of dramatically less use to the loved one. It is frequent for caregivers of Alzheimer’s disease to feel an unhealthy amount of stress. If you are feeling denial, anger, social withdrawal, anxiety, depression, exhaustion, sleeplessness, irritability, lack of concentration, and health problems as a caregiver, it is important to you and your loved one that you see a doctor and get some help. You cannot give care if you are physically and emotionally sick. It is no easy task to smile in the light of someone yelling. It is not for the weak to be kind when harsh words are being thrown in the face of that kindness.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, typically affecting seniors. It is an abnormal progressive disease that affects those we love and care about over a period of agonizing time. Assessing the symptoms of ourselves is as important as assessing those symptoms of those who are affected by this disease. For some things, we are strong enough to carry the weight on our own, for other burdens, we need help. Let us be reminded, strengthened, and encouraged that in the end faith, hope, and love remain. But the greatest of these is love.