Home Health Understanding Dementia: What it Is and Isn’t

Understanding Dementia: What it Is and Isn’t


People who have cared for loved ones with dementia often say that they lost that loved one long before they passed away, and this is heartbreaking to watch happen. Dementia causes personality changes, apathy, withdrawal, short and long-term memory loss, confusion, and the loss of ability to do everyday tasks.

Some families chose to take in their elderly loved ones to care for themselves. Others who lack the resources or knowledge may choose to place them in a skilled nursing facility Missouri to get the care they need. Every patient and family is different, but no matter what the family chooses, understanding dementia and what the person with it is going through can help ease the burden and choose the best care possible.

Syndrome vs. Disease

The first thing to note is that dementia is not a disease, but a syndrome. A syndrome is defined as, “a group of signs and symptoms that occur together and characterize a particular abnormality or condition.” This differs from a disease, which is a specifically diagnosable condition. They are similar and can overlap, but understanding the difference is important for effective treatment.

Dementia vs. Alzheimer’s

These two terms are often used interchangeably when describing an elderly person experiencing symptoms associated with these conditions, but they aren’t synonymous. Dementia is a syndrome whereas Alzheimer’s is a disease. Alzheimer’s is one of many diseases and conditions under the “umbrella term” of dementia. Other common conditions include:

  • Vascular dementia, which is caused by damage done to the brain by a stroke
  • Dementia with Lewy bodies, or DLB, is caused by microscopic protein deposits called Lewy bodies
  • Parkinson’s, which is an overall nervous system disorder that progresses with time 
  • Huntington’s Disease, which is caused by a genetic brain defect

Researching and recognizing the different dementia conditions and the unique symptoms some of them present with will help you and your loved one’s health care provider make the best choice possible for their care and quality of life.