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Lesson 2 – Terminology – What’s the Difference?

Some people may prefer terms like memory loss or cognitive problems over terms like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

As a gerontologist and dementia educator, I prefer to use the terms Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, which I’ll do throughout this course to reduce stigma around these words.

I’ll also share the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia because this question constantly comes up in workshops. There’s a lot of confusion.

As you saw in the graphic at the start of this lesson, dementia is the general umbrella term for a wide range of symptoms. Memory loss is just one symptom. Beyond memory loss, other dementia symptoms include problems with thinking, reasoning, judgment, planning, recognizing where you are in space and time, and so on.

Once someone has dementia symptoms, the next question is to identify the cause of those symptoms. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia symptoms, although there are dozens of other causes. Each one, such as vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy Bodies, frontotemporal dementia, etc. corresponds to its own set of brain changes and may have somewhat different symptoms under the dementia umbrella.

There’s also mixed type dementia, which means more than one disease process is going on in the brain.

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