Illinois Neurological Institute

Conditions We Treat

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are terms that we hear a lot. It’s important to understand these terms and their meanings.

Dementia is not a disease, it’s a set of symptoms. These symptoms may include language difficulties, loss of recent memory or poor judgment. Therefore, when someone is said to have dementia, it is referring to symptoms they are exhibiting.

Alzheimer’s disease is a disease in which abnormal particles form in the brain and destroy healthy brain cells. Therefore, Alzheimer’s disease can result in dementia, causing the symptoms listed above.

Here is a more in-depth look at both dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Dementia

The term dementia is used to describe a gradual deterioration of intellectual abilities. The result of this deterioration results in what can be considered symptoms. For example, the loss of the ability to balance your checkbook, drive a car or do your job, are all symptoms of dementia. Dementia may also cause changes in personality or emotions. Dementia is NOT a normal part of aging. It is caused by a disease affecting the brain. Dementia can be the result of Alzheimer’s disease, a stroke or other diseases or conditions.

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. Because of this, Alzheimer’s is usually linked to the general term of dementia. The unknowns of Alzheimer’s make it a challenging disease to conquer. A variety of risk factors for Alzheimer's have been identified. The media bombards us with newly discovered risk factors seemly every day.

Signs & Symptoms

Symptoms of dementia are usually subtle and may not be noticeable for years. Many people associate memory loss as the main symptom of dementia. While this is true in some cases, memory loss is not always the first sign of dementia.

 

Factors such as difficulty with language, problems with perception and reasoning, as well as changes in personality may occur before memory loss. This is especially true in individuals whose symptoms begin before the age of 65.

10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia

  1. Memory Loss That Affects Job Skills: 
It's normal to occasionally forget assignments, colleagues' names, or a business associate's telephone number and remember them later. Those with a dementia, such as Alzheimer's disease, may forget things more often and not remember them later.

  2. Difficulty Performing Familiar Tasks: 
Busy people can be so distracted from time to time that they may leave the carrots on the stove and only remember to serve them at the end of the meal. People with Alzheimer's disease could prepare a meal and not only forget to serve it but also forget they made it.

  3. Problems with Language: 
Everyone has trouble finding the right word sometimes, but a person with Alzheimer's disease may forget simple words or substitute inappropriate words, making his or her sentence incomprehensible.

  4. Disorientation of Time and Place: 
It's normal to forget the day of the week or your destination for a moment. But people with Alzheimer's disease can become lost on their own street, not knowing where they are, how they got there or how to get back home.

  5. Poor or Impaired Judgment: 
People can become so immersed in an activity that they temporarily forget the child they're watching. People with Alzheimer's disease could forget entirely the child under their care. They also may dress inappropriately, wearing several shirts or blouses.

  6. Problems with Abstract Thinking: 
Balancing a checkbook may be disconcerting when the task is more complicated than usual. Someone with Alzheimer's disease could forget completely what the numbers are and what needs to be done with them.

  7. Misplacing Things: 
Anyone can temporarily misplace a wallet or keys. A person with Alzheimer's disease may put things in inappropriate places: an iron in the freezer, or a wristwatch in the sugar bowl.

  8. Changes in Mood or Behavior: 
Everyone becomes sad or moody occasionally. Someone with Alzheimer's disease can exhibit rapid mood swings (from calm to tears to anger) for no apparent reason.

  9. Changes in Personality: 
People's personalities ordinarily change somewhat with age. But a person with Alzheimer's disease can show drastic personality changes, becoming extremely confused, suspicious, or fearful.

  10. Loss of Initiative: 
It's normal to tire of housework, business activities, or social obligations, but most people regain their initiative. The person with Alzheimer's disease may become very passive and require cues and prompting to become involved.