Clearing the Confusion of Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease
Often times the terms Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are used synonymously. When this happens, people become confused with what is a disease and what are the symptoms.
Consider this way of thinking about it: imagine an umbrella in which 5 children are gathered to stay dry. The umbrella is a collection of material goods including plastic, fabric, metal and mechanical hinges. The siblings below the umbrella are related through blood, parenting and shared genetic. They are each individual in their own way.
Dementia is that umbrella. It is simply a collection of symptoms that encompass altered mental status. The siblings each represent a diagnosis that displays the symptoms of dementia.
Dementia is not a diagnosis, in and of itself, but rather just a collection of features or traits that describe a person’s mental status as unstable, and altered from reality.
Alzheimer’s disease is one of the diseases that encompasses the symptoms of dementia including that of loss of judgment, communication skills and memory.
Other diseases under that umbrella include Parkinson’s disease, frontotemporal degeneration, and Lewy Body Dementia. Each very different in its display of symptoms, yet often grouped together, much like siblings in a family.
Due to the fact that dementia is not a proper diagnosis, no one should leave a doctor’s office being told that they have dementia without further explanation.
It would be similar to walking out of a physician’s office being told you have cancer and nothing more. Your very next question after being told you have cancer should be “What kind? How aggressive? What are the next steps?”
With dementia, it is the same. “What type? How aggressive? What are the next steps?”
Getting the proper diagnosis matters a great deal regarding the source of the altered status, treatment options, and medications.
Just like children, no two are alike regardless of the relationship, shared upbringing or genetic makeup. Therefore the symptomatology of dementia displayed by any patient should be explored, defined and handled in an individualistic manner.
By Catherine Braxton