Dementia is not Alzheimer’s

Early in this journey, I noticed that when I told people my dad has dementia, they assumed he has Alzheimer’s Disease. I was confused, because the terms “dementia” and “Alzheimer’s” tend to be used interchangeably.

But my dad doesn’t have Alzheimer’s.

I needed clarification, so I did some research and found that, in fact, dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease are not the same thing.

According to the website: “The term ‘dementia’ describes a set of symptoms which include loss of memory, mood changes, and problems with communication and reasoning. These symptoms occur when the brain is damaged by certain diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease and damage caused by a series of small strokes.”

It turns out, Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common cause of dementia, but it is not the only cause. Strokes, injuries and even substance abuse can also be culprits. My father’s dementia is the result of Parkinson’s Disease.

Also, notice that memory loss is one of the symptoms within the group called dementia. Mood changes, communication and reasoning problems are also on the list.

Because people seem to associate dementia solely with memory loss, friends are confused when they talk with my dad and see that his memory is still pretty good. For him, the ability to reason is what’s been damaged most.

I met a woman whose husband developed dementia after heart surgery. She said, “One man when into the operating room, and a completely different one came out.” For him, personality change was the big issue.

Whatever you call it, and whatever the cause, dementia is a sad, difficult experience for everyone involved. But for me, it’s helpful knowing, at least,  that I’m using the right words.

Learning the lingo is part of the journey.

My dad and I snuggling on the recliner – probably 1964.


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