Could my mother have Alzheimer's, rather than dementia?

3 answers | Last updated: Dec 04, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

Regarding symptoms of dementia if new situations seem to stimulate a more "connected" response rather than confusion could that indicate that mom's symptoms could be related to something else rather than Alzheimers? Mom had a stroke 7 years ago. She recovered pretty well from the stroke but has really been going downhill rapidly lately. Confusion, inability to use words that even make sense, doesn't seem to understand what we are saying. Losing ability to self-dress and self-toilet. We've had her evaluated and they say "dementia" but haven't said Alzheimers specifically.

Expert Answers

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's. A Met Life Foundation Journalists in Aging fellow, she writes extensively about health and caregiving; four of her family members have had dementia.

When the doctors say your mother has dementia, they are referring to her symptoms. Dementia is not a disease but a set of symptoms including memory loss, changes in attention and abstract reasoning, and so on. Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia, but it's not the only one. Vascular dementia, for example, is caused by small strokes in the brain. It can be difficult to pinpoint the cause of dementia without a complete medical workup. Ask your mother's doctors what they think the cause of her sudden decline might be.

Community Answers

Janlovesu answered...

This is a very good question, and it is hard to answer, as my fathers doctor refers to a condition called senility, and later on calling it dementia, and treating him with "Namenda"... which is for Alzheimers. I understand your questioning as I have had the same. There are many types of "Dementia" some medications can cause dementia such as BP meds... and asprin and even more.... I would go to your mothers appts with her and ask the doctor. Many blessings to you and your mom. Take care of you too* ((((((((HUGS))))))))

Frena answered...

and also dementia (whether Alzheimer's dementia or some other dementia) does not typically cause sudden rapid decline. any sudden decline in a person with dementia is actually a sign something else medical is going on. it really signals, "Get me to the doc!" that's so further in-depth exploration of what's going on can be done.

things which cause such sudden declines can often be fixable (UTI's, medication changes and so on).

in general i'd say new situations don't stimulate better responses in a person with dementia, rather the opposite. but i have seen where a person with dementia rises to the demands of a particular occasion and functions better for a while. also, laughter improves brain function in those with dementia for anything from 30 minutes to 2 hours -- those lovely endorphins!

after-effects of stroke can often involve dementia which would then correctly be called vascular dementia, not Alzheimer's. i sense that the word Alzheimer's is grotesquely over-used in our society right now.

do get your Mom checked over right now and also consider whether a medication change coincides with decreased functioning.

good luck!