For those with loved ones with dementia, you likely have concerns about how this will affect their health and quality of life. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of dementia FAQs to answer your queries and provide clarity.

What is the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s?

Dementia is an all-encompassing term to represent symptoms of memory decline, cognitive impairment or altered reasoning and thinking skills. Under this umbrella, one may receive an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis. This represents specific, complex brain changes after cell damage. As the most common cause of dementia, Alzheimer’s makes up roughly 60 to 80 percent of all cases. However, you can have a form of dementia that is not Alzheimer’s.

How is dementia diagnosed?

While each case may present unique challenges, most doctors will begin with an assessment that includes reviewing medical history, a physical exam and a series of neurological tests. In this process, the doctor may discover that cognitive impairments result from nutrient deficiencies or thyroid irregularities. Then based on these evaluations and initial conclusions, a doctor may require additional testing, brain scans and psychiatric evaluations to diagnose dementia accurately.

What are the early signs of dementia?

The most common early sign of dementia often presents as a general decline in memory and difficulty completing daily tasks. Eventually, this may be accompanied by confusion with time or one’s physical environment, writing, speaking or frequent mood swings. If you begin to notice any of these symptoms in recurring patterns, seek the help of a doctor for an official diagnosis.

Refer to our article on dementia symptoms for further information. 

Is dementia genetic?

According to research, a small percentage of gene mutations have been passed down from parent to child, resulting in a generational diagnosis pattern. While this experience is uncommon, certain factors can increase one’s likelihood to develop dementia, often referred to as risk genes.

How common is dementia? 

Across the globe, roughly 10 million new cases of dementia are reported each year, with an average of 50 million current cases at any given time. In relation to the global population of those over 60 years of age, roughly 5 – 8 percent of individuals received an official diagnosis.

Is dementia a normal part of aging?

Dementia is not a normal part of aging. The body goes through many age-related changes over time. This includes loss of muscle strength, skin elasticity or vision impairments. Some memory-related issues are also common, but severe memory loss is not normal. 

How do you recognize the difference? If the cognition issues only cause minor inconveniences throughout the day, then it’s likely just a normal part of the aging process. If those issues then begin to affect one’s independence or ability to remember and connect with close family members, it may be time to see a doctor.

Can dementia be cured?

In most cases, dementia cannot be cured singularly. However, many professionals will prescribe a series of steps—in the form of medication, therapy or small procedures—to help temporarily improve symptoms. These small actions can help improve the quality of life for those with dementia. These can also help them maintain more independence and cognitive retention. 

How can I best care for someone with dementia? 

Dementia, in any form, can present new challenges. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and support from family members and professionals alike. As soon as your loved one receives a dementia diagnosis, create a long-term care plan. This is a progressive disease that will require professional help down the road. 

Actively empathize with those who experience symptoms of dementia. Additionally, look for ways to meaningfully connect on a level that feels comfortable for those you’re helping. Remember that dementia can affect more than just memory. It may take some time to adjust to those changes. Be patient. Stay in close contact with medical or senior living professionals to help you make the best decision for those you support.

If you’re still not sure what to do or how to make the next step, our team members at Vineyard are happy to continue the conversation with you.