Dementia vs. Alzheimer’s: What’s the Difference?

dementia Alzheimer's

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Although they may be used as interchangeable terms, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are not the same. Dementia is an overarching term to describe symptoms that impact memory, the performance of daily activities, and the ability to communicate. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia. As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, memory, language, and thinking skills degenerate.


Dementia refers to a group of symptoms associated with a decline in memory, reasoning, or other cognitive skills. There are many different types of dementia and many conditions can cause it. There is a condition titled ‘mixed dementia’ in which there is more than one type of dementia occurring simultaneously. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia and accounts for 60-80% of dementia cases.

Dementia does not just occur in the natural process of aging. It is caused by damage to brain cells which affects an individual’s ability to communicate, which affects thinking, behavior, and feelings.


Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease that is caused by changes in the brain associated with cell damage. It leads to dementia symptoms that get worse as time passes. The most common symptom of Alzheimer’s is struggling to retain new information as the disease usually impacts the part of the brain responsible for learning first.

As the disease advances, symptoms become more severe and include disorientation, confusion, and behavior changes. Eventually, speaking, swallowing, and walking becomes too difficult to do unassisted. Alzheimer’s disease is not able to be prevented, cured, or even slowed down.

Although most older adults are at risk for Alzheimer’s, the disease is not part of the natural aging process. Most people with Alzheimer’s are 65 and older, but approximately 200,000 Americans under 65 have early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.


The outlook for those with dementia hinges entirely on the direct cause of the dementia. For example, symptoms of dementia due to Parkinson’s disease can be managed by treatments, but there is no way to stop or slow down the related dementia. Some types of dementia are reversible, but most are not and will cause more impairment over time.

Alzheimer’s is a terminal disease. No cure is currently available. Usually, the average person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s has an estimated lifespan of four to eight years. Some people can live with the disease for up to 20 years.


We hope this information on dementia vs. Alzheimer’s is helpful to you.

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