Many people use the terms “Alzheimer’s disease” and “dementia” interchangeably, but actually, Alzheimer’s disease is one type of dementia. Other types of dementia include Lewy Body dementia – the second most common type of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease – as well as dementia from Huntington’s disease or Parkinson’s disease, vascular dementia, mixed dementia and more.
Dementia happens gradually.
What the types of dementia share is that they progress gradually. At first, you may only notice small memory lapses. But as time goes on, the lapses become more obvious and occur more often. Then other symptoms occur, including loss of cognitive functions and motor abilities. Confusion about where they are and who their loved ones are becomes increasingly common.
Delirium comes on suddenly.
Delirium also causes symptoms of confusion and memory loss, but it happens in hours or just days rather than gradually over time. It can be caused by many things, from dehydration, an infection or fever to a brain injury or stroke. Even a new medication can cause delirium in some people.
Fortunately, delirium can be stopped if its cause can be determined. It is often misdiagnosed as dementia, however, so be sure to tell the physician that the symptoms came on suddenly; for example, the person was acting normal two days ago. Think of anything new in your loved one’s life, such as an illness or switching medications.
For assistance caring for a loved one at home, contact Homewatch Caregivers at 520-297-9349.