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What is the Difference Between Alzheimer’s and Dementia?

This is a common question posed to Willamette Valley Resources and Referrals. As caregivers and supportive family members it’s imperative that you understand the subtle difference in these terms.

Short Answer

The short answer is that Alzheimer’s is a specific disease and dementia is not. Dementia is a non-specific term for the declining mental ability that is interfering with someone’s quality of life. Alzheimer’s accounts for as many as 80% of dementia cases and it’s said to be the leading cause of dementia.


Dementia is not a single disease. It’s an umbrella term associated with declining memory and/or mental cognition. There are multiple types of dementia and several conditions can ultimately cause dementia. Some of these disorders being Huntington’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Karsakoff Syndrome and more.

Dementia is caused by damage to brain cells and it’s not a standard part of the aging process. This degeneration is caused by any number of the conditions we’ve talked about and it affects your brain cells ability to communicate, which can affect cognition, behavior and emotions. Multiple types of dementia can occur simultaneously during a condition called mixed dementia.


Alzheimer’s is one specific brain disease that causes deterioration during complex brain transformations following brain cell damage. A very common and early sign of Alzheimer’s is a difficulty in remembering recently acquired information. This is because Alzheimer’s can impact parts of our brains associated with learning.

Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of the aging process. Alzheimer’s can lead to symptoms of dementia which will gradually compound over time. As the disease advances, symptoms get more pronounced and include confusion, disorientation and behavioral changes. Over time, articulating, swallowing and mobility become incredibly problematic. As of today, there is no way to prevent, cure or slow this disease.

Most people with Alzheimer’s are 65 year of age and older. An increased age does put you at a greater risk of developing the disease, however approximately 200,000 Americans under the age of 65 have younger onset Alzheimer’s.

For a more in-depth description of the symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s and Dementia please watch our 10 Warning Signs for Alzheimer's and Dementia video, read our previous blog entry (Alzheimer's and Dementia ✅ What You Need to Know and What you Need to Know About Memory Care) or visit the Alzheimer's Association. Information for this blog article was obtained from

Know that you’re never alone and if you have specific questions, the team at Willamette Valley Resources and Referrals is here for you with free information, resources and the ability to refer you to the best care facilities that the Willamette Valley has to offer. Peace of mind is a click or phone call away.

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