As a person gets older, it is natural to have a decline in speed of thinking, attention, and the ability to multi-task. But dementia is not a part of normal aging. Dementia is the general label for when a person has a decline in their memory or other areas of cognitive function, and that decline causes them to need assistance with daily activities that they never needed before. Dementia is a term often used interchangeably with Alzheimer’s disease, but they mean different things. Dementia is the general condition, whereas Alzheimer’s disease is a specific type of dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, but there are many other causes of dementia. For example, a person could have a stroke and then develop a decline in their memory and executive function skills and need new assistance with paying their bills and remembering to take their medications. This would be called vascular dementia, which is the second most common cause of dementia.
Other causes of dementia include dementia with Lewy bodies (the second most common neurodegenerative cause of dementia), normal pressure hydrocephalus (a cause of dementia that is treated surgically), frontotemporal degeneration (the most common cause of dementia in people under 60 years old), and many others.
When a person is diagnosed with dementia, it is common for there to be multiple factors contributing to the memory loss, in addition to the one main disease. A comprehensive evaluation can provide clarity as to the specific type of dementia, dementia stage, safety recommendations, and medical recommendations that can optimize the other factors contributing to the dementia and the risk factors for further decline.
References and Resources
- Alzheimer’s Association. 2022 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures. Alzheimers Dement 2022;18. Available at https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/facts-figures