What is DEMENTIA? Dementia (from Latin de- "apart, away" + mens "mind") is the progressive decline in cognitive function due to damage or disease in the body beyond what might be expected from normal aging. Although dementia is far more common in the geriatric population, it may occur in any stage of adulthood. This age cutoff is defining, as similar sets of symptoms due to organic brain dysfunction are given different names in populations younger than adulthood (see, for instance, developmental disorders).
Dementia is a non-specific illness syndrome (set of signs and symptoms) in which affected areas of cognition may be memory, attention, language, and problem solving. Higher mental functions are affected first in the process. Especially in the later stages of the condition, affected persons may be disoriented in time (not knowing what day of the week, day of the month, or even what year it is), in place (not knowing where they are), and in person (not knowing who they are or others around them).
"Dementia" simply means the symptom of a deterioration of intellectual abilities resulting from an unspecified disease or disorder of the brain.
Alzheimer's Disease is one disease/disorder that causes dementia. Many other illnesses or "syndromes" can also cause dementia. Parkinson's Disease can cause dementia. A stroke can cause dementia. Even dehydration can cause dementia.
Many of the things that can cause dementia are treatable, even potentially curable.
If you have taken your elder to the doctor and received a diagnosis of "dementia" you haven't received a diagnosis at all. Unless you know what is causing the dementia you can't begin to treat it's root cause.
If your physician has diagnosed "dementia" it's time for a second opinion. You are probably dealing either with a physician who is not comfortable with the truth, or one who doesn't know how (or doesn't want to bother) to differentiate between all the possible causes of dementia. Either way, a skilled geriatrician or a neurologist who is comfortable with seniors would be a good place to start.
What is ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE? Alzheimer's disease (AD), also called Alzheimer disease, Senile Dementia of the Alzheimer Type (SDAT) or simply Alzheimer's, is the most common form of dementia.
This incurable, degenerative, and terminal disease was first described by German psychiatrist Alois Alzheimer in 1906 and was named after him. Generally it is diagnosed in people over 65 years of age, although the less-prevalent early-onset Alzheimer's can occur much earlier. An estimated 26.6 million people worldwide had Alzheimer's in 2006; this number may quadruple by 2050.