Dementia and Alzheimer’s are not the same thing. Dementia is a general term for a decline in cognitive abilities that include memory loss and thinking difficulties. Alzheimer’s is a disease that affects the brain and causes dementia. Alzheimer’s is only one of many types of dementia — each with their own cause.
Between 50% and 75% of people living with dementia in the UK have Alzheimer’s disease. This can lead people to assume that all people with dementia have Alzheimer’s or that they’re one and the same.
It is important to understand the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in order to know how best to support your relative. Some symptoms and treatments for dementia caused by Alzheimer’s are not the same as the symptoms and treatments available for other types of dementia.
Dementia is a term for a decline in cognitive abilities that takes place in a person’s brain — with symptoms usually including changes to memory, behaviour and the ability to carry out everyday tasks.
Dementia is caused by damage to the cells in the brain. There is no cure for dementia, but there are treatments that can help with the symptoms.
Alzheimer’s disease is a specific brain disease that causes dementia. It is the most common cause of dementia globally and in the UK. The difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia is that Alzheimer’s is one of multiple diseases that leads to dementia.
Alzheimer’s is a degenerative condition, which means it gets worse as time goes on. An early symptom of Alzheimer’s is difficulty with short-term memory. Over time, there are a wider number of more severe symptoms, such as losing the ability to swallow, speak and move around easily. You can find out everything you need to know about Alzheimer’s from our Complete Guide to Alzheimer’s.
Lasting Power of Attorney is a legal document that allows someone else to make decisions on your behalf, if you are no longer able to do so. Many people with dementia choose to make a Lasting Power of Attorney. Find out more from our Guide to Power of Attorney
Frequently Asked Questions about Dementia and Alzheimer's
What's the difference between Alzheimer's and Amnesia?
Alzheimer's is a specific degenerative brain disease that causes dementia.
Amnesia is another word for memory loss. There are many things besides dementia that can cause memory loss, such as a recent stroke, insomnia, delirium, or just getting older.
Amnesia can be one of the early signs of dementia - which could be caused by Alzheimer's. If your relative is having difficulty with their memory, it is worth contacting their GP so that they can make an assessment on the cause of their amnesia.
Can you be forgetful and not have Alzheimer's disease?
You can be forgetful and not have Alzheimer's disease. You can be forgetful and not have any type of dementia at all. Forgetfulness can be caused by many things - including just getting older.
What is worse, Alzheimer's or dementia?
It is important to understand that the difference between Alzheimer's and dementia means that one is not worse than the other. Alzheimer's disease causes dementia. A person with Alzheimer's disease has both Alzheimer's and dementia.
It is difficult to compare the severity of Alzheimer's to other types of dementia because it is a degenerative condition.
Does everyone with dementia have Alzheimer's disease?
Can you have Alzheimer's and other types of dementia at the same time?
Yes, it is possible to have Alzheimer's and other types of dementia at the same time. This is known as 'mixed dementia'. Read more about mixed dementia in our guide to types of dementia.
Live-in care provides round-the-clock support for people who need help to live independently. There is specialist live-in care available for people with dementia. Read our guide to 10 of the best live-in care providers to find out more.