Understanding the Difference Between Alzheimer’s and Dementia

The terms Alzheimer’s and dementia are often used interchangeably, when in fact “dementia” is an umbrella term for symptoms that cause a disruption in brain function, such as memory loss and changes in cognitive abilities. Alzheimer’s disease is just one type of dementia. As the Alzheimer’s Association further explains, dementia is a general term used to describe a “decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia.” Alzheimer’s is a specific disease, (whereas dementia is not), and makes up 60 – 80% of dementia cases. 

According to Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), almost 50 million people globally are affected by some form of dementia, with a new case occurring somewhere in the world every three seconds. This statistic is incredible and underscores the importance of knowing the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia. Understanding the difference between the two terms will give you the tools and knowledge necessary to best care for your loved one.

Dementia

Although dementia typically involves memory loss, experiencing memory loss alone does not mean you have dementia. The symptoms an individual may experience will vary depending on the cause of dementia, but most common signs include, but are not limited to: 

  • Cognitive changes such as memory loss, difficulty communicating, confusion or feeling disoriented, or difficulty problem-solving or multi-tasking.
  • Psychological changes that may include depression, anxiety, inappropriate behavior, and personality changes.

It’s important to remember that individuals are not always affected the same or experience the same symptoms as others. The damage to the nerve cells and connectors to the brain will affect each person uniquely, thus presenting different symptoms at different times. 

Alzheimer’s Disease

This progressive neurological disorder causes a continuous decline in one’s independent functioning, affected by cognitive changes and skills such as social and behavioral. Scientists do not know the full extent of what causes Alzheimer’s disease, but they do see a small percent of patients that present mutations of certain genes, which would point to a genetic factor. Additionally, you may have heard the term plaques and tangles. Individuals with Alzheimer’s have these plaques and tangles in their brain and is one thing that leads to the impairment and brain cell disfunction. As the Mayo Clinic describes it, plaques are clumps of the beta-amyloid protein and tangles are fibrous tangles made up of the tau protein. Together the plaques and tangles disrupt and cause damage to the brain’s healthy neurons and the fibers that connect them. 

Alzheimer’s Whisperer

At HealthStar Home Health, we understand how overwhelming and difficult it can be to care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or other type of dementia. As a leading cause of death amongst seniors, it is a devastating diagnosis and one that truly affects the patient’s family members and caregivers alike. Knowing the difficulty in caring for a loved one with this disease, HealthStar developed a program, Becoming an Alzheimer’s Whisperer, which sets them apart from other home health care agencies.

This comprehensive and effective Alzheimer’s and dementia home care program is a unique approach to caring for individuals affected by dementia, whether the patient is living at home or in an assisted living community. Focusing on more than just nursing, this multi-disciplinary team of professionals come together to develop an understanding of how the disease is progressing at a personalized level, to then be able to provide friends and family with the tools necessary to support and care for their loved one. 

If you know someone who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, let the caregivers and Alzheimer’s Whisperers at HealthStar Home Health help. Call us today for more information on how to become an Alzheimer’s Whisperer or how this program can help you care for your senior loved one.

Memory Screenings – Proof the Public Wants to Know!

People have mixed feelings about taking a memory screen. Fifty percent of the public told us they didn’t want to know even if they do have memory loss related to dementia and the other half that have been affected in some way by Alzheimer’s or dementia said they wished they would have known to get checked sooner and thanked us for being at the fair. One family in particular that had a memory screening during the fair decided to take our advice and have follow up with their physician after their mother scored poorly on the memory screen. Two days later, the daughter returned to our booth to thank us for being at the fair. She said, had we not been there, she never would have known her mother was having difficulties as it was not something that was discussed openly nor something she had detected on her own. This is very common among children with aging parents. During the two days after the screening, the daughter took her mother to the doctor and the doctor agreed further testing and screening was recommended. Both the daughter as well as the doctor were very glad they had taken the time to take the screening as the mother would now receive the appropriate care she needed. We had another gentleman stop by, who stated he had been having memory concerns for several months and every time he spoke to his family and co-workers about it they would pass it off as normal aging. After meeting with us, he realized the symptoms he described were in fact something he should talk with his doctor about. Before leaving, he thanked us for being at the fair and said he felt better now that he had someone that seemed to understand and validate what he had been experiencing and planned to schedule a doctor’s visit.

Face-to-face memory screenings average three minutes and consist of questions and tasks to assess memory. HealthStar and the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America encourages screenings for adults with memory concerns, a family history of Alzheimer’s disease or those who want to check their memory now and have the baseline results for future comparison. Unfortunately, there’s a large gap in education. There are many reasons for memory loss that are treatable such as vitamin deficiency, thyroid issues, changes in medication, stress and many others to name a few. Once the public was made aware during our time at the fair that there might be a treatable cause, they were more at ease and we saw a big jump in the number of people deciding to take the memory screen. We want to raise public awareness and take the fear out of being screened. Early diagnosis and treatment can substantially help during early onset whereas treatment in later stages of the disease aren’t as beneficial.

70% of families diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia keep their loved one at home until it’s time to move them into a nursing facility. For many with Alzheimer’s or dementia, they will spend several years at home under the care of a family member or other caregiver before the need to move to a higher level nursing facility is required. The behaviors that accompany this disease can be very overwhelming and many families do not have the financial means to cover some of the costs of care so they suffer through the journey alone and often alienated from friends and family that eventually pull away. Changes in healthcare, due to high prevalence of the disease, allow our nursing experts to provide training, education and non-pharmacologic behavior assistance in the home to families and caregivers, which is 100% covered by traditional Medicare and most insurance plans. The public as well as many healthcare professionals are not aware of this available resource.

It is even available to those under the age of 65, if they’ve been diagnosed by a doctor. Family and caregiver burnout rises dramatically when faced with this disease. We had a family member call a few weeks ago, who was completely at their wits end from trying to care for their loved one. When the family member called to ask for help the caregiver’s comment was, “I know I shouldn’t be saying this, but it would be so much easier if he wasn’t here anymore.” Some of the behaviors exhibited by a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia are: agitation, aggression, sundowning, sexual inappropriateness, wandering, hallucinations, repetitiveness, screaming, paranoia, and accusations of infidelity or family members stealing from them. These are very traumatizing behaviors for families who don’t know how to deal with them. The main reason for this is due to the fact that they haven’t been taught how to manage these behaviors at home or how to work with the disease instead of working against the disease. This is a very real problem that we often encounter and families don’t know where to turn to receive more help and available resources. After being in the home and working with the emotionally and physically drained family caregiver, she informed us that she had been dealing with this on her own for four years and had tried several resources but none were able to help in a way that supported her needs. She was extremely grateful and felt better equipped to continue caring for her loved one.

HealthStar uses the free memory screenings as a way to educate the public and provide families with lots of additional resources after a diagnosis. HealthStar also provides a free Memory Café which is a social group for families and the person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Families share their successes and challenges and gain much needed support. Our biggest concern is that the public isn’t aware this type of care is available for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients or that it is covered by insurance.

For additional information on dementia and caregiving check out Alzheimer’s Speaks

The Alzheimer’s Whisperer Program: How & Why It Works

Today we will learn how & why The Alzheimer’s Whisperer program works. Host Lori La Bey talks with HealthStar Home Health representative Holly Eide, along with Dr. Verna Carlson, President and Katherine Vanderhorst, Vice-President of C&V Senior Care Specialists who developed and license the Alzheimer’s Whisperer program.

http://player.cinchcast.com/?platformId=1&assetType=single&assetId=6907539

Check Out Caregiving Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Alzheimers Speaks Radio on BlogTalkRadio

For information on our Alzheimer’s Whisperer program click here

For additional information on dementia and caregiving check out Alzheimer’s Speaks