It seems as though Alzheimer’s is in the news on an almost daily basis. If you have a loved one who is showing signs of memory loss you are undoubtedly worried that it means Alzheimer’s is around the corner. Does as memory loss lead to dementia and is all dementia caused by Alzheimer’s though? To clear up some confusion, a North Andover area elder law attorney at DeBruyckere Law Offices explains the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Understanding the relationship between dementia and Alzheimer’s starts with defining the term “dementia.” Dementia is a broad term used to refer to a group of symptoms that may include impaired thinking and memory. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke defines dementia as a “word for a group of symptoms caused by disorders that affect the brain. It is not a specific disease. People with dementia may not be able to think well enough to do normal activities, such as getting dressed or eating. They may lose their ability to solve problems or control their emotions. Their personalities may change. They may become agitated or see things that are not there.”
Dementia is often associated with the natural cognitive decline that occurs with aging. While Alzheimer’s can lead to dementia, conditions other than Alzheimer’s can also be the root cause of dementia, such as Huntington’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Although the most well-known symptom associated with dementia is memory difficulty, there are other areas of cognitive functioning that can also be affected by dementia, including problem solving, spatial skills, and language as well as attention, judgment, and organizational abilities.
Another characteristic of dementia that distinguishes it from Alzheimer’s is that some causes of dementia are reversible. Thyroid conditions or vitamin deficiencies, for example, can cause dementia; however, if they are identified and treated the dementia associated with those conditions can be reversed. Alzheimer’s related dementia, however, cannot be reversed. Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s accounts for about three out of every four cases of dementia.
To understand the relationship between Alzheimer’s and dementia you need to remember that Alzheimer’s causes dementia but not all dementia is caused by Alzheimer’s. Put another way, you can have dementia without having Alzheimer’s but you cannot have Alzheimer’s without dementia.
Is may be surprising to learn that Alzheimer’s disease is not a new phenomenon. In on the contrary, the disease was first identified over 100 years ago in 1906. At that time, a physician by the name of Dr. Alois Alzheimer discovered changes in the brain tissue of a woman who died from an unidentified mental illness. Prior to her death, the woman reportedly suffered from memory loss, language problems, and unpredictable behavior. After her death, an examination of her brain identified numerous abnormal clumps of protein plaques and tangled fibers.
Today, Alzheimer’s disease is referred to as a specific and progressive brain disease that destroys brain cells which in turn impairs memory, thinking, and behavior. The symptoms of Alzheimer’s will typically increase in severity over time and begin to affect employment, hobbies and social life, eventually resulting in dementia. Alzheimer’s causes a gradual decline in cognitive abilities over a period of several years and is ultimately a fatal disease.
Although there is a form of Alzheimer’s known as “early onset Alzheimer’s,” most sufferers do not begin to experience symptoms until they are retirement age. Alzheimer’s symptoms include getting lost, asking repetitive questions, experiencing difficulty handling money and paying bills, having poor decision-making skills, frequently misplacing items and undergoing personality changes. Completing daily tasks, such as bathing or dressing may take longer than normal as well. In the later stages of the disease, Alzheimer’s may cause one to lose the ability to communicate as well as to recognize oneself or loved ones.
Contact a North Andover Area Elder Law Attorney
For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions or concerns about Alzheimer’s or dementia, or about and elder law issue, contacta North Andover area elder law attorney at DeBruyckere Law Offices by calling (603) 894-4141 or (978) 969-0331 to schedule an appointment.
As of 2019, 5.8 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s and that figure is expected to grow considerably in the coming years. One in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia.
1. Execute an advance directive appointing an Agent for health care decisions.
2. Consider agreeing to a voluntary guardianship
3. Update your estate plan to include a long-term care component if you don’t already have one
Why is Medicaid planning important?
If the time comes that you require long-term care, neither your basic health insurance nor Medicare will cover the cost – and the cost will be significant. If you haven’t planned ahead, qualifying for Medicaid (which will cover LTC) could put your assets at risk.