Jun 7, 2016

How to Understand the Difference Between Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease

Dementia describes a group of symptoms and is not a disease. Alzheimer's is a disease that evidences symptoms of dementia.


Some believe Alzheimer's is worse than dementia. Some people use the words interchangeably | Alzheimer's Reading Room
One of the most frequently asked questions I receive (FAQ) is,

What is the Difference Between Alzheimer’s and Dementia


Some believe Alzheimer's is worse than dementia. Some people use the words interchangeably (like me). This of course is the source of much of the confusion about how dementia and Alzheimer's differ.

Let's get right to it.


By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

When you to the grocery store you usually visit the section where you will find the fruit. You will see many different kinds of fruit like: apples, oranges, bananas and pears. Each is a kind, or type of fruit.


Let's imagine you could go into a store and visit the dementia section. What would you see?

You would see types of dementia like:

1. Alzheimer's Disease

2. Lewy Body Dementia

3. Vascular Dementia 

4. Frontotemporal Dementia

So if an apple is a type of fruit; then Alzheimer's is a type of dementia.

The list above includes the biggest and most common types (kinds) of dementia?

There are of course many things that either contribute to or cause dementia. These include: Parkinson's disease, Huntington’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease, depression, and alcoholism just to name a few.


Dementia is not a disease. Dementia actually refers to a group of symptoms.

When someone is told they have dementia, it means that they have significant memory problems as well as other cognitive difficulties, and that these problems are severe enough to get in the way of daily living.


Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia.

Alzheimer's disease affects memory, thinking, concentration, and judgment; and, ultimately impedes a person’s ability to perform normal daily activities.


Alzheimer's disease accounts for 60 percent or more of dementia cases.

Dementia describes a group of symptoms and is not a disease. Alzheimer's is a disease that evidences symptoms of dementia.


I should note that around the world the word dementia has taken on new meaning. What can be describe as a connotative meaning that is intended to be comprehensive in its nature. By this I mean, it is an all encompassing term that brings all those that are touched by all the various typed of dementia under one umbrella.

As a result, the terms Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are often used interchangeably as many people believe that one means the other. The distinction between the two words can causes confusion on the behalf of patients, families and caregivers.

Personally, I prefer the word dementia because it brings all of our brothers and sisters who are experiencing similar problems under one roof. It brings us together.

Even though I chose the name Alzheimer's Reading Room many years ago, I hope everyone understands that this is an all inclusive place. A place for every single person that has been touched by dementia.

For a more detailed discussion of this topic please visit this page


Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR).

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