Is it Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease?

Among the health issues that can rob one’s elder of independence are the many forms of dementia be it moderate or as critical as Alzheimer’s disease.  Having had a spouse who worked in brain research, primarily Alzheimer’s and Multi-infarct Dementia, I witnessed firsthand not only how the dementia robs seniors of their self-sufficiency but the toll such diagnoses take on family members. 

There are several forms of dementia known to occur in elderly patients, with Alzheimer's being the most prevalent.  


Common signs and symptoms of dementia include:

·       Loss of memory

·       Impaired judgment  -

a medical condition that prevents and individual from being able to make good decisions

·       Difficulties with abstract thinking      

i.e. perception that a table and chair are furnitureSee link below.

·       Faulty reasoning

·       Inappropriate behavior

·       Loss of communication skills

·       Disorientation to time and place

·       Gait, motor skills and balance problems

·       Neglect of personal care and safety

·       Hallucinations, paranoia, agitation

One might observe that a person with dementia

·       Repeatedly asks the same questions

·       Becomes lost or disoriented in familiar places, even within the home

·       Is unable to follow simple directions

·       Is disoriented as to the date and/or time of day

·       Does not recognize and is confused even individuals who are familiar

·       Has difficulty with routine tasks such as using the phone, paying bills

·       Neglects personal hygiene, safety and nutrition


Explanation of the difference between abstract and concrete thinking: 

“Some people think in terms of their experiences and the things they can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell; they ask questions about objects, events, and procedures. Others think in terms of possibilities and principles; they ask questions that apply ideas in lots of different ways. Some people think in terms of specific how-to steps; they read the instruction book or do things the way they were told because each task is different. Others think in terms of relationships and patterns; they see how something they’ve done before is similar to what is being done now and use the same methods as far as they can—before reading the instructions.

People in the first group are called “concrete thinkers.” They tend to experience the world as a series of separate, discrete objects and events, and learn by experience working with objects, or by seeing or hearing concrete examples. Once they learn how something is done, that’s the only “right” way to do it.
People in the second group are called “abstract thinkers.” They’re constantly generalizing from events and

experiences and relating or connecting them to others, and experience the world as an unfolding set of more and more complex interactions hoping to find a few basic principles that apply to everything. All humans generalize, but for abstract thinkers, it’s the only way to operate.” 


Conditions associated with impaired judgment, impulsive and inappropriate behavior include 

Alzheimer's disease – a type of dementia that results in memory loss; in addition to, thinking and behavioral issues.

Dementia from head injury – can result in memory problems, personality changes and may cause memory problems, difficulty speaking, and personality changes.

Depression (Adult) - is a painful sadness that interferes with daily life and includes hopelessness, anxiety, and more.

·        Elder abuse - signs and symptoms include bruises, burns, bleeding, fearful behavior, bed sores and more.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) dementia - causes personality changes, difficulty reasoning and weakness.

Multi-infarct dementia (MID) - is loss of brain function caused by a series of small strokes.

Vascular dementia - is typically the result of a major stroke or in instances of one or more “silent” strokes which can occur without the patient even being away of such have taken place.

Parkinson’s disease dementia - Parkinson’s is a disease of the nervous system.  Approximately 50% to 80% of Parkinson’s patients develop this form of dementia.

Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome – most often found in individuals who have been long-term, heavy drinkers.  This is caused by an acute shortage of Thiamine (Vitamin B-1).

Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) – caused by cell damage in regions of the brain that emotions, control judgment, planning, speech and some forms of movement.

Is it possible to suffer from more than one form of dementia?

Mixed dementia - is a combination of two types of dementia. The most commonplace combination is vascular dementia and Alzheimer's disease.  Symptoms and treatment are contingent upon the parts of the brain involved and existent types of dementia.