Basic Info About Alzheimer’s and Dementia

by | August 3, 2021 | Care Tips, Featured Article

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 say “Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.”

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.


  1. Caregiver

    Please send free to me for my husband, age 85…thank you

    • Eric Kolb

      Hi. It would be our pleasure. We just emailed you to ask for your address. We hope you find many moments of joy during your journey.

  2. Jill angell

    My friend is 53 years old and she had to retire from her profession due to memory loss beginning to affect her work. This was about 2 years ago. She lives with her elderly father (her mother has Alzheimers and was just placed in a nursing home). I find that my friend will call me with news and do this repeatedly (the same news). I don’t know how best to respond to her. The first time her repeated news report occurred, I said yes, you told me last week, that’s great news!, etc. But I tried to not focus on the repeat. But I just got a text today to call her because she has news. She literally called me yesterday with the repeat news. So should I act surprised? Should I just say that it’s wonderful and not tell her she already told me before? I can’t find anything about this. It’s very hard, because she is a long time friend and we are only in our early 50’s. Thank you for any help.
    Jill A, Michigan


      Jill, thank you for caring so much about your friend. This is a very difficult situation, especially at this age, and our hearts go out to you.

      To answer your question … yes, act surprised. It will not help to tell her she already told you the news, and it may make her feel frustrated or embarrassed.

      In her book “Creating Moments of Joy,” Jolene Brackey writes: “You too will hear from someone a story over and over again. You have a choice … “Ugh, if I have to hear that story one more time!” Or you can think, “I’d better remember this story for this person.” Because as the disease progresses she will lose the ability to communicate her story. When that happens, what do you think will create joy for her? Us telling her her story. That story that irritates you may be the very thing that creates joy.”

      If you send us your mailing address, we’ll mail you a free copy of “Creating Moments of Joy.”

      We also recommend checking out what Rachael Wonderlin has to say about “Embracing Their Reality” on

  3. jerry cook

    Can I get a copy of the book please. Wife of 42 years is experiencing very poor decision making and lapses of moral judgement.


      Hi, Jerry. We are sorry that your wife is experiencing some cognitive impairment. Thank you for the love and care you provide. We would be glad to send you a copy of “Creating Moments of Joy.” Please fill out the form at, and I’ll get the book headed your way.


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Author Bio: Eric and his wife, Sheryl, founded Songs & Smiles to support families during the Alzheimer's journey. He loves singing and smiling and helping people living with dementia connect with beautiful memories.

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