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What’s the Difference Between Dementia and Alzheimer’s?

People often use the words Alzheimer’s and dementia interchangeably, thinking that they mean the same thing. There are most certainly similarities, however, dementia is more of an umbrella term while Alzheimer’s describes a specific form of dementia.

This means that someone can have dementia and not have Alzheimer’s. Put simply, dementia is a syndrome that yields a set of symptoms and Alzheimer’s is a disease that causes these symptoms to develop. Lets’ examine these terms more closely clearing up the confusion felt by individuals affected with these conditions, their family members, and anyone who’s eager to learn more.

Defining Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Think of ‘salad’ as a category of food. There are many types of salads, such as caesar, cobb, spinach, and so on. All of these are salads, but not every salad is a caesar salad. Just like ‘salad’ the term dementia represents a larger category. Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia, and mixed dementia all fall into this category and they’re the specific types of dementia within this umbrella term. When defining these terms, we can easily compare how they truly differ:

Alzheimer’s (noun): “A progressive mental deterioration that tends to occur in middle or old age, due to degeneration of the brain. It is the most common cause of senility within the aging population.”


Dementia (noun): “A chronic or persistent disorder within the brain, leading to symptoms such as memory loss, changes in personality, and impaired reasoning. This umbrella term may be caused by various diseases or other damaging conditions.”

If you or your loved one have been diagnosed with dementia and you’re struggling to understand what exactly that means, it’s important to speak to your doctor about what’s specifically causing symptoms of dementia. What underlying condition or factor is causing cognitive impairment?

Since dementia is more of a general term to describe various symptoms associated with this syndrome, it’s important to understand what is influencing the diagnosis itself. For example, someone who has frontotemporal dementia will exhibit different symptoms than someone with Alzheimer’s. In order to plan for the future, you need to understand the type of dementia you are experiencing.

Here is a good way to think of it, Alzheimer’s is simply Alzheimer’s. Although there are also various types of Alzheimer’s, they all reflect similar symptoms and characteristics. The key differences generally have to do with the time of onset and the potential cause. In comparison, dementia can be displayed throughout a wide range of conditions, disorders, injuries, and deficiencies.


Krucik, G. (2013). What’s the Difference Between Dementia and Alzheimer’s? Healthline. Retrieved from http://www.healthline.com/health/alzheimers-disease/difference-dementia alzheimers#Connection1

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