Here is some basic info about Alzheimer’s and dementia. We focus on practical, everyday care, so we don’t talk much about medicine and science, but here are some helpful things to know.
What Is Dementia?
Dementia is a medical term for symptoms of impaired intellectual ability to the point where it affects daily functioning.
Dementia is characterized by significant decline in two or more intellectual areas, such as memory or vocabulary or judgment.
What Is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s is a disease, and it’s the most common cause of dementia.
The disease is named after Alois Alzheimer, who first described the condition in 1906.
What Is the Relationship Between Alzheimer’s and Dementia?
Alzheimer’s is the leading cause of dementia, so sometimes people use one term to mean the other. It’s more accurate to refer to someone living with “Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia” or “dementia caused by Alzheimer’s.”
What Is Mild Cognitive Impairment?
Doctors and clinicians diagnose people with mild cognitive impairment, or MCI. Technically, it means the person has mild memory loss, but not bad enough to be considered dementia. Some people diagnosed with MCI develop dementia, but others return to normal or remain in the MCI category.
What Else Causes Dementia?
Dementia can be caused by many different diseases and brain disorders. After Alzheimer’s, one of the most common is Lewy body dementia.
Is Dementia Normal for Older People?
Dementia is not a normal part of aging, but it’s more common in older people. It’s very rare for someone to develop dementia before age 60. About 1 percent of people age 65 are living with dementia. At age 75 the rate is about 10 percent, and by age 90 the rate is 30 percent or more. Most people who live to age 90 never experience significant memory loss or any other symptoms of dementia.
Does Alzheimer’s Get Worse?
Yes, Alzheimer’s causes dementia to progress. Decline may be very gradual over a period of many years, and some days and moments will be better than others. The right care can enable a person to do better, at least for a while. Overall, however, the disease always gets worse, never better.
Focus on Care
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but you can provide care. The journey typically lasts for years, and for most of that time, people living with dementia can still enjoy the same things they always have.
Instead of focusing on what is lost, focus on what remains. Long after losing the ability to store short-term memories, people still enjoy beauty and feel emotions. Recognize each moment as an opportunity to help your loved one experience the joy of life.
For some diseases, doctors can prescribe specific treatments, but that’s not the case when it comes to Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Every person with Alzheimer’s is different, so your experience will be your best teacher. When we offer care tips, we encourage you to try different things until you find what works best with your loved one.
To Learn More About Alzheimer’s and Dementia
For more basic info about Alzheimer’s and dementia, visit the National Institute of Aging website. We also recommend the following books (note: As an Amazon Associate, Songs & Smiles earns from qualifying purchases if you purchase items after clicking on a product link).
“Creating Moments of Joy, 5th Edition” by Jolene Brackey (our personal favorite, a down-to-earth guide with many practical ideas to try as you care for a loved one living with dementia)
“What’s Happening to Grandpa?” by Maria Shriver (a story to help young children start to understand Alzheimer’s)
“Surviving Alzheimer’s” by Paula Spencer Scott (practical tips and soul-saving wisdom for caregivers)
“The 36-Hour Day” by Nancy L. Mace and Peter V. Rabins (A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer Disease and Other Dementias)
To request a free copy of “Creating Moments of Joy” please submit the form in our article titled Books and DVDs Available Free to Dementia Caregivers.