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 associatedwith the natural cognitive decline that occurs with aging. While Alzheimer’scan lead to dementia, conditions other than Alzheimer’s can also be the rootcause of dementia, such as Huntington’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease andCreutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Although themost well-known symptom associated with dementia is memory difficulty, thereare 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 ofdementia that distinguishes it from Alzheimer’s is that some causes of dementiaare reversible. Thyroid conditions or vitamin deficiencies, for example, cancause dementia; however, if they are identified and treated the dementiaassociated with those conditions can be reversed. Alzheimer’s related dementia, however, cannotbe reversed. Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s accounts for about three out of everyfour cases of dementia.
To understand therelationship between Alzheimer’s and dementia you need to remember thatAlzheimer’s causes dementia but not all dementia is caused by Alzheimer’s. Put anotherway, you can have dementia without having Alzheimer’s but you cannot haveAlzheimer’s without dementia.
Is may be surprising tolearn that Alzheimer’s disease is not a new phenomenon. In on the contrary, thedisease was first identified over 100 years ago in 1906. At that time, aphysician by the name of Dr. Alois Alzheimer discovered changes in the braintissue of a woman who died from an unidentified mental illness. Prior to herdeath, the woman reportedly suffered from memory loss, language problems, andunpredictable behavior. After her death, an examination of her brain identifiednumerous abnormal clumps of protein plaques and tangled fibers.
Today, Alzheimer’s diseaseis referred to as a specific and progressive brain disease that destroys braincells which in turn impairs memory, thinking, and behavior. The symptoms ofAlzheimer’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 incognitive abilities over a period of several years and is ultimately a fataldisease.
Although there is a form ofAlzheimer’s known as “early onset Alzheimer’s,” most sufferers do not begin toexperience symptoms until they are retirement age. Alzheimer’s symptoms includegetting lost, asking repetitive questions, experiencing difficulty handlingmoney and paying bills, having poor decision-making skills, frequentlymisplacing items and undergoing personality changes. Completing daily tasks, suchas bathing or dressing may take longer than normal as well. In the later stagesof the disease, Alzheimer’s may cause one to lose the ability to communicate aswell 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.
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