Dementia is a general term used to describe a group of conditions that cause a decline in a person’s cognitive abilities. People use their cognitive abilities to solve problems, make plans, and remember things that happened in the past. The World Health Organization estimates that around 55 million people are living with dementia, with 10 million new cases diagnosed each year. WHO researchers also anticipate that the total number of people living with dementia will increase to 152 million by 2050.

A dementia diagnosis can be overwhelming, whether it affects you or someone you love. Not only do you have to think about the physical and psychological effects of dementia, but you also need to consider how you’ll pay for dementia care or share the responsibility with other family members. We created this guide to ensure you have the information you need to make good medical and financial decisions.

What Is The Difference Between Alzheimer’s and Dementia?
Many people use the terms “Alzheimer’s” and “dementia” interchangeably, but they don’t mean the same thing. Dementia refers to a set of symptoms associated with cognitive decline, while Alzheimer’s is a specific type of dementia characterized by memory loss. 

What Are The Types of Dementia?

Beyond Alzheimer’s disease, there are many other lesser-known types of dementia. Below, we define each type and provide some background information on the symptoms. 

  • Alzheimer’s Disease: Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive type of dementia affecting more than six million people in the United States. Early stages are characterized by forgetfulness, while later stages bring worsening memory loss and confusion.
  • Lewy Body Dementia: Lewy body dementia develops when a type of protein, known as Lewy bodies, builds up in the brain. It has many of the same symptoms as Alzheimer’s disease. Lewy body dementia can also cause abnormal movements, visual hallucinations, balance problems, tremors or difficulty swallowing. 
  • Vascular Dementia: Vascular dementia refers to cognitive decline associated with a stroke or some other type of vascular problem within the brain. Vascular dementia can cause slower thinking, attention problems, and difficulty staying organized; however, memory loss isn’t as significant in vascular dementia as it is in Alzheimer’s disease. 
  • Mixed Dementia: Mixed dementia means that someone has two or more types of dementia. The symptoms of mixed dementia vary based on several factors, including what types of dementia you have and how far they’ve progressed. You may experience difficulty speaking, remembering things, completing daily activities, or managing your finances. Mixed dementia can also cause balance problems, delusions, hallucinations, or problems with movement.
  • Parkinson’s Disease Dementia: Although many of the symptoms of Parkinson’s dementia are similar to those produced by other types of dementia, Parkinson’s tends to have more of an impact on daily life because it causes physical and cognitive changes. For example, you may experience tremors or have difficulty walking, making working or participating in your hobbies difficult. 
  • Frontotemporal Dementia: Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) stands apart from other forms of dementia in that symptoms usually start to appear between the ages of 40 and 65.  While memory loss is often one of the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s disease, FTD typically causes changes in personality and behavior.  FTD may also manifest as primary progressive aphasia, which makes it challenging to communicate with others.
  • Huntington’s Disease: Huntington’s disease is a genetic disorder that causes personality changes, forgetfulness, involuntary movements, and other symptoms. Like FTD, Huntington’s disease typically begins at a younger age, with many people experiencing symptoms between the ages of 30 and 50. 
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease: Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease can cause rapidly developing dementia as well as muscle stiffness, confusion, hallucinations, difficulty speaking and difficulty walking. Because the symptoms progress so rapidly, you may require help with daily activities. 

What Are The Early Signs of Dementia?

It can be challenging to determine if memory loss and other symptoms are caused by dementia or just a normal part of aging. The downloadable graphic below lists 10 common early signs of dementia that you can use as a simple gauge of your loved one’s behavior.  

While noticing the signs of dementia can be helpful, remember that only a doctor can diagnose this condition. If you suspect you or a loved one may be experiencing early symptoms of the condition, speak to a medical professional. 

What Are The Stages of Dementia?

Clinicians evaluate the severity of one’s dementia or Alzheimer’s using a scale of seven stages. The overview below can help you get a better understanding of how the condition progresses. You can learn more about the stages of the condition in our Guide to the Seven Stages of Dementia.

Stage of Dementia


No Cognitive Decline

Not noticeable symptoms or signs of memory loss

Age-Related Forgetfulness

Slight forgetfulness, such as forgetting someone’s name or where you placed an item

Mild Cognitive Impairment

More noticeable signs of forgetfulness; may have difficulty continuing at work or get lost more frequently 

Mild Dementia

Increased forgetfulness; one may start to withdraw from others and forget bits of their personal history

Moderate Dementia

Unable to remember more aspects of one’s personal details, such as their phone number or address. May experience some disorientation but still remembers family. 

Moderately Severe Dementia

Noticeable changes to personality and difficulty remembering recent events; more frequent disorientation and possible aggression 

Severe Dementia

May no longer be able to communicate; lack of awareness; incontinence and loss of muscle control

How Do You Diagnose Dementia?

Only a licensed medical professional can diagnose dementia. If you’re experiencing concerning symptoms, or if you think a loved one has dementia, schedule a medical assessment immediately. The sooner a diagnosis is made, the sooner everyone can develop a treatment plan together. 

The dementia diagnosis process usually involves a mental status test and imaging tests like CT scans to determine if there are changes to the brain. 

The Clinical Dementia Rating Scale

The Clinical Dementia Rating Scale is often used to assess people with symptoms of dementia. For each category, the examiner assigns a rating of 0, 0.5, 1, 2, or 3, with 0 indicating no impairment and 3 indicating severe impairment. The categories include memory, judgment, and problem-solving, orientation, home and hobbies, community affairs, and personal care. Category scores are added together to determine a total score; a score of 3.0 to 4.0 indicates very mild dementia, while a score of 16.0 to 18.0 indicates the presence of severe dementia.

How Can I Help a Loved One With Dementia?

As dementia progresses, it becomes more difficult to perform day-to-day activities. Fortunately, many care options exist for people who have this medical condition. Below, we explain the two most common types of care for seniors with dementia to help you understand your available options.

In-Home Care for Seniors with Dementia

In-home care is just what it sounds like: professional care provided in your home or the home of your loved one. 

In-home care for seniors with dementia may include companion care, homemaker services, personal care services and nursing care. Standard in-home care is a good option if you’re looking for someone to keep your loved one company, and help with activities of daily living and chores around the house. Home health care is a better fit if your loved one needs medical care at home, and is provided by a nurse or other certified medical professional. 

Residential Memory Care

For some people, residential memory care is a safer option than in-home care. You may want to consider residential memory care if your loved one’s dementia is getting worse or if their needs have exceeded what you can provide at home. Memory care facilities typically have extra features to make them safer and more comfortable for people with dementia. For example, some facilities have keypads on the door to make sure that residents can’t wander away and put themselves in danger. If you’re interested in residential care, use the directory to find a memory care facility in your area.

Get Help With Dementia Caregiving

If you’re considering one of the above options for your loved one with dementia, our Family Advisors can help connect you with the best providers in your area. Call (800) 558-0653 for one-on-one help from a advisor, all at no cost to you. 
If you’re looking for advice on managing dementia symptoms for your loved one, how to best communicate with them and what activities are good for seniors with dementia, read our Guide to Caregiving for a Loved One with Dementia.

Works Cited

“Alzheimer’s disease signs and symptoms”. UCSF Health, n.d., Accessed 17 March 2024.

“Dementia”. Mayo Clinic, 13 February 2024, Accessed 17 March 2024.

“Dementia”. World Health Organization, 15 March 2023, Accessed 17 March 2024.

“Frontotemporal dementia”. Johns Hopkins Medicine, n.d., Accessed 13 July 2021.

“In-home care”. Alzheimer’s Association, n.d., Accessed 18 March 2024.

“Memory Problems, Forgetfulness, and Aging”. National Institute on Aging, 22 November 2023, Accessed 17 March 2024.

O’Bryant, S.E., et al. “Staging dementia using Clinical Dementia Rating Scale sum of boxes scores”. NCBI, 1 August 2012, Accessed 17 March 2024.

“Overview of Huntington’s disease”. Huntington’s Disease Society of America, n.d., Accessed 17 March 2024.

“Vascular contributions to cognitive impairment and dementia”. National Institute on Aging, 31 December 2017, Accessed 17 March 2024.

“What is dementia? Symptoms, types, and diagnosis”. National Institute on Aging, 2 July 2021, Accessed 17 March 2024.

“What is Lewy body dementia?”. National Institute on Aging, 27 June 2018, Accessed 17 March 2024.