Dementia, It’s Not Just Alzheimer’s

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The terms “Dementia” and “Alzheimer’s” are often used interchangeably. They actually have very different meanings.

The language we use and the words we choose really matter. WORDS MATTER.

Dementia is not a specific disease. Dementia is a collective name for progressive brain syndromes which affect memory, thinking, behavior and emotion. There are over 200 subtypes of dementia.

Dementia is a general term used to describe symptoms characterized by the loss of cognitive function.

Cognitive functioning is thinking, remembering, and reasoning — and behavioral abilities to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities. These functions include memory, language skills, visual perception, problem-solving, self-management, and the ability to focus and pay attention.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most well-known and common form of dementia, but not everyone with dementia has Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is a chronic condition that progressively damages and eventually destroys brain cells. It is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.

We should not use “Alzheimer’s” as the general term for dementia. This causes a lot of confusion and can actually keep people from getting an accurate diagnosis of the type of dementia they really have.

People with other forms of dementia and their families feel very marginalized and ignored when we say “Alzheimer’s” instead of “dementia,” and it is scientifically incorrect.

It is best practice to use the term “dementia, including Alzheimer’s.”

How are you and your organization talking about dementia? Does everyone you know understand the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia?

Citations:

1) Mayo Clinic (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/expert-answers/alzheimers-and-dementia-whats-the-difference/faq-20396861
2) Alzheimer’s Association. (n.d.) What is dementia? Retrieved from https://www.alz.org/what-is-dementia.asp
3) Alzheimer’s Disease International. World Alzheimer Report 2018. The state of the art of dementia research: New frontiers
4) Alzheimer’s Association and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Healthy Brain Initiative, State and Local Public Health Parterships to Address Dementia: The 2018-2023 Road Map. Chicago IL: Alzheimer’s Assocation; 2018.

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