According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 6 million Americans are living with this neurological disease. It’s projected that by 2050, this number will reach 13 million. Age is believed to be the biggest risk factor associated with this condition. Although a family history of Alzheimer’s may also put you at greater risk. 

Quite often the terms Alzheimer’s and dementia are used interchangeably to describe age-related memory loss. But it’s important to understand their similarities and differences. 

In doing so, you can identify their early signs and get the support you (or a loved one) may need as your daily needs change.

Alzheimer’s vs. Dementia

One way to understand the differences between Alzheimer’s and dementia is to remember that Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that affects the brain by destroying brain cells. Memory loss is a symptom of Alzheimer’s. However, individuals living with this condition will also lose the ability to

  • Think critically
  • Reason or rationalize
  • Complete tasks independently
  • Communicate

Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe memory-related conditions like Alzheimer’s. This is much in the same way that COPD is used to describe other lung conditions like emphysema or chronic bronchitis. In this way, Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia. In fact, it’s reported that this disease accounts for 60-80% of dementia cases. However, a person may have dementia but may not be living with Alzheimer’s.

There are other types of dementia, as well, including:

  • Vascular dementia – considered the second most common type of dementia, this disease occurs when an individual experiences disruptions in the transmission of blood to the brain.
  • Parkinson’s disease dementia – a chronic, progressive disease that develops from decreased dopamine production in your brain, making it difficult for the brain to coordinate physical muscle movements.
  • Huntington’s disease – a rare, genetic disease that slowly breaks down the nerve cells in the brain. 
  • Mixed dementia – a comorbid condition, where a person may develop different types of dementia at the same time. 

These diseases can all affect a person’s memory, in addition to cognitive skills and muscle movement. 

Now that we understand the basics of these two terms, let’s review how Alzheimer’s, the most common type of dementia, develops over time. 

 Different Stages of Alzheimer’s

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, you know the fear and confusion it creates regarding what the future may hold. Each person experiences this condition individually, but it’s overall trajectory from early to late-stage is similar. 

No Visible Impairment

During this stage, the only way to detect Alzheimer’s is through a brain scan. No memory issues or other symptoms are present.

General Forgetfulness

Generally, the symptoms shown in stage two are often just chalked up to getting older and natural forgetfulness. Maybe personal items like keys or cell phones are misplaced. 

Perhaps names become more difficult to remember, or the wrong name is used when talking to someone.

Mild Cognitive Impairment

This is generally the stage where loved ones begin noticing that there is an issue. Medical testing may also expose cognitive impairment at this stage, as well. People in stage three of Alzheimer’s may struggle to find the right words to say in general conversations; they may also exhibit difficulty in remembering things that they just read or information they just heard. 

Mild Alzheimer’s Disease

More clear cut symptoms of the disease are apparent at this stage. People at stage four can have trouble with 

Simple arithmetic and financial management

Remembering different months or seasons

Demonstrate poor short-term memory (what they had for lunch, who visited them that day, etc.)

Moderate Alzheimer’s Disease

During stage five of Alzheimer’s, loved ones will need assistance with many of the basic activities of daily living. They will often become confused about where they are or what time it is. 

Dressing appropriately for the season or occasion will also become difficult. Generally, people at this stage still remember their families and can recall some details from the past, especially their youth.

Moderately Severe Alzheimer’s

At this stage, people need constant supervision to ensure their safety. They can mistake a person for someone else, causing alarm, and sometimes, violent behavior. Bathing and toileting are often not possible without assistance, and wandering becomes a major risk at this stage, as well.

Severe Alzheimer’s

This is the final stage of the disease. Professional care is generally needed because loved ones lose the ability to respond to their environment or to communicate. 

Unfortunately, there is still no cure for Alzheimer’s, but science is continually working to develop new treatments that help delay its symptoms and progression until one can be found. 

When To See a Doctor?

Most seniors who notice memory loss beginning to occur in their lives may neglect to inform their doctors—even when it starts to interfere with basic activities of daily living. 

According to a study conducted by the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP), just one-quarter of surveyed adults said that they discussed memory issues with their doctor.

Dealing with the Fear

It’s understandable that seniors may experience a real fear of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.

People also feel a sense of embarrassment in admitting that they have memory problems. There is also the worry that people will develop a lower opinion of them—leading to a sense of loneliness and isolation.

Understanding the Causes and Treatment

It’s important to remember that memory loss can be attributed to factors other than dementia. Oftentimes, if a doctor is made aware of a memory issue, he or she can pinpoint root causes, such as hyperactive thyroid conditions or vitamin deficiencies that may be the true culprits. 

In fact, 42% of respondents in the NCCDPHP study who discussed memory issues with their physicians received treatment of some kind. This treatment could be as simple as adding a vitamin to your daily nutrition regimen. 

  • Seniors who are living with dementia and keeping their memory loss a secret may miss out on memory care treatments that are only available to those who have received a formal diagnosis. 
  • These treatments, while not able to cure dementia, may help slow its progression and greatly improve a person’s quality of life—especially if the diagnosis comes at an early stage of this condition. 
  • Just as importantly, when a dementia diagnosis comes early, seniors have the ability to participate in the decision-making process with regards to their future treatment options.

Taking Back Control

In the end, as with most physical issues, it is of the utmost importance to let your doctor know of any time you experience something that does not feel right. Nobody knows your body better than you do, and the longer you wait to tell someone, the greater the risk.

Finding Assisted Living with Memory Care

At Primrose, one of our core values is Relentless Improvement. So, when we saw a need in our communities for person-centered memory care services, we knew it was time to expand our resources and offer programs that support seniors as their needs change.

After surveying our communities and learning that we had a need for dementia support among our assisted living residents, we began researching how we could improve their care. It was during this period of research that Primrose made the decision to move forward in providing memory care services.

Primrose sought assistance from industry consultants and national leaders in the care of those living with dementia. This marked the start of a year-long journey in the development of a signature memory care program for Primrose. 

With the help of our consultants and architectural group, we were able to design a contemporary memory care community that will facilitate a person-centered care approach. It also allows both small and large group activities, quiet spaces, an outdoor courtyard, and apartments designed to calm and relax our residents.

What truly sets our assisted living communities apart is getting to know each resident and developing a unique plan of care built around their individual needs. In the end, it is all about comfort, safety, well-being, and quality care. That is our commitment and our promise to all new and current residents we have the privilege of serving! 

What’s Next for Memory Care at Primrose?

Moving into the future, we plan to add memory care in all new markets, where it’s a good fit—as we already offer independent living and assisted living services. 

In certain markets, like Newburgh, Indiana, for example, we offer stand-alone memory care communities, alongside their combined assisted/independent living counterparts. In other locations, like Rogers, Arkansas, assisted living and memory care are combined into one community.

Primrose has established a long reputation for excellent care, and we look forward to carrying out this standard of quality in our memory care services, as well.

Assisted Living for Alzheimer’s & Dementia

Are you researching memory care options for a loved one? We understand this can be difficult, as you want to ensure he or she receives the best care possible and that your loved one feels respected and empowered in a new environment. 

That is exactly what you can expect at Primrose. We would be honored to assist you and your loved one in taking the next steps of this important journey. 

Please contact our team to learn which of our communities offer memory care services! We also encourage you to download our resources below for more information on how to talk to your loved one about memory care. 

Memory Care Resources: