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What is the difference between "dementia" and "Alzheimer's?"

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What is the difference between "Dementia" and "Alzheimer's"?


A: From Vic:  Excellent question and one I get asked all the time.  Dementia is simply an umbrella term like "cancer."  If someone says, "My brother has cancer," the next question is, "What kind of cancer does your brother have?"  The appropriate question to ask after someone says, "My uncle has dementia," is, "What form of dementia does your uncle have?" 


Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia.  There are over one hundred types of dementia, the top six are Parkinson's, Vascular Dementia, Lewy Bodies, Frontotemperal Dementia, Huntington's Disease and Creutfeldt-Jakob Disease, just to name a few. 



Where can I go for help? I don’t know if what I’m experiencing and observing with dad is normal aging or something I should be more concerned about?


A: From Vic: Your first step could be to call your National Alzheimer’s Association Helpline for your local help.  1-800-272-3900, or www.alz.org.  Once there, you can speak with a private counselor who can help with your subjective concerns.  You will also hear other caregiver's stories in their Support Group that are relevant to your own experiences.  Suggestions and solutions are plentiful, and everyone in attendance is there to help.  You will find you are not alone




Does an MRI or CT Scan really show dementia?


A: From Vic:   An MRI, PET, or CT Scan can indicate brain atrophy or plaque.  This was the case with my Mom, proving there was a real reason for her forgetfulness and odd behavior(s). First step is to find a good, recommended Neurologist. The Doctor will do an assessment, or what is called a “Standard Cognitive Test.”  It is a series of questions, as well as interactive drawing or writing things down.  The test itself isn’t conclusive, but it does give an idea or baseline as to where they are cognitively.  




This is an imperative suggestion for anyone having to gather documents for any reason: DMV, an attorney, Insurance Agency, any "company" of authority.  Whatever you are copying for someone, make a copy of ALL DOCUMENTS.  Just because a document says "This page left intentionally blank" doesn't mean it is meaningless.  COPY EVERYTHING.  HAND OVER EVERYTHING.  I was sent home to obtain, copy and return with these type of "blank pages" after a day from hell.  I cried all the way home I was so frustrated.



A: From Vic:  EXCELLENT ADVICE.  I was caught once without "all the copies" and I never did that again.  So, yes, COPY EVERY PAGE!



My wife’s mom lives alone with her animals.  Her diagnosis is unclear, but we did learn she has atrophy of brain matter making (what we feel is) her Alzheimer’s worse.  She stabilizes for a time, then she takes a nose-dive. She can still feed herself and her animals, but this is progressing fast and we are worried about her being alone.

I put up two-way cameras to keep an eye on her as well as be able to talk to her.  We hired a caregiver to come in a few hours a day, every day.  But I gotta tell ya, this is taking a toll on my family because both my wife and I are very worried and highly stressed, even the kids are feeling the pressure too.

Is there anything I’m missing, or needing to do to keep an eye on her so that maybe our lives won't be so anxious?

A: From Vic: I applaud the camera idea, and I think you are doing everything you can for now.  Unfortunately, this will digress and only get worse.  If you can, I would get a diagnosis, there are over 75 forms of dementia, Alzheimer's being the most common.  Once you are armed with that, you and your wife can make further decisions for care from a place of knowledge.  Maybe also think ahead about a different living situation for her such as Assisted Living or more caregiver hours.  This is a lot to handle, I know, but your lives will be less stressed the more educated you are.  You are already so proactive in doing everything you can to keep her safe, kudos to you.

**The following samples are taken from the "Community Conversation," a virtual chat-room Forgive & Forget offers to Members where they can ask everyone questions, and give their suggestions as well as Vic.  The Terminology Search Bar is also offered in the "Community Conversation."



My sister and I live alone together.  We both have Alzheimer’s but my symptoms are not as progressed or as bad as my sister, Donna.  I still volunteer at the hospital a few days a week, I can walk fine the two miles to and from.  I came home to find Donna on the floor unable to get up. I heard about ADT Security having a system in place just for this problem, a button Donna can wear and push, then speak to ADT. But Donna’s Alzheimer’s is so progressed, I'm afraid she won’t even know what wearing the button means or what it’s for! Any short term suggestions?

A: MEMBER SUGGESTION:  I'd go for the ADT system anyway! I had this system and two times my mom fell.  First time she pushed the button and was able to hear and talk to ADT, the second time she was out of communication range but could push the button.  Good thing about that ADT system is if they don’t hear you respond, they send help regardless.

Maybe ask the hospital for their suggestion or opinion about Donna's ability to discern using an ADT Button, or if she now needs full-time supervision for safety sake.  Or maybe you both can move together to an Assisted Living so you can still work and have independence? Or is there a neighbor who can check in on her for you?

A:  MEMBER SUGGESTION:  This may not be totally relevant but when my Mom visits, I appreciate the ADT Security that “beeps” when a door is breached.  Those beeps have alerted me she has opened a door to the outside.  What a bonus!

A: From Vic:  What great input from our Community, thanks gang! I think the ADT System is terrific for many reasons, I had this feature for Mom and it made me feel better knowing help was there when I couldn't be.  It worked for our needs until it didn't, I think it worked for about a year, then Mom needed more supervision and I moved her to Assisted Living. 


I need to get my father to the doctor for a cognitive assessment and he won’t go!! My wife and I live with my dad, and we are noticing his memory loss with his practicing (he plays the oboe and violin).  New notes and phrasing he learns one day, disappear the next.  He is missing rehearsals altogether, or when he's rehearsing his performance is declining.  His long term memory seems okay, but learning new music fades immediately.

When I bring this up to him, he says he talks to his other musician friends about his forgetfulness, and they all joke and say they have the same problem and not to worry. Consequently, dad’s response to my request of getting a cognitive test is always, “I don’t need an appointment,” and he just won’t go.

A: MEMBER SUGGESTION: Try saying, “Maybe not right now, dad, but there are things we are noticing that we feel are serious to your safety. I’d simply like to get a baseline for future reference. Would that be okay?”

A: From Vic:  Excellent suggestion!  That needs to be memorized word for word!  I'm sure he is scared, aware and ashamed of his shortfalls, my Mom was, so I took a breath and spoke from a calm, concerned place.  I'm sure you do this already, but still give him the option and dignity that he has input and can make a decision, but I would start asking him more and more often.  Make notes of his declining behavior(s) to share with him.  Just so you know, in Support Group, it took some of the other people months to get their parent to the neurologist for an assessment, so just start the process.

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