Frequently Asked Questions
We expect you and your family members to have questions. We encourage you to write them down and bring them with you to your next visit with your physician. Below are answers to some of the questions we receive most often.
One of the most common misconceptions is that Alzheimer’s disease is a stage of dementia, or vice versa. In fact, “dementia” is a general term for any disorder that causes a permanent and progressive loss of memory and other thinking skills.
Alzheimer’s disease is only one of the brain disorders that causes dementia. There are numerous other causes such as:
- Vascular dementia (poor circulation in the brain)
- Normal pressure hydrocephalus (a condition in which there is too much spinal fluid)
- Lewy Body Disease (a condition with both memory loss and signs of Parkinson’s)
- Certain brain infections such as syphilis and HIV
- and countless others
Alzheimer’s disease is a specific kind of dementia caused by abnormal accumulation in the brain of a protein substance called amyloid. Experienced clinicians can usually spot certain clinical features in our patients, in order to make a reasonable diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or a different kind of dementia. However, there is no test or scan currently available that proves beyond doubt what kind of dementia a person has. If you are concerned about memory loss, in yourself or a loved one, seek an evaluation by a primary care doctor with a substantial amount of experience, or ask for a referral to a geriatrician, neurologist or geriatric psychiatrist.
Dementia is a group of distinct diseases that affect the ability of brain cells to function properly. The most common clinical diagnosis associated with dementia is Alzheimer’s Disease, however there are others including Vascular Dementia, which often follows a stroke, and Lewy Body Dementia, which are caused by protein deposits within the brain.
The most common symptom of dementia-related diseases is a loss of memory. However, the progression of the disease can also result in difficulties communicating, focusing and reasoning. It is important to remember that dementia is not simply “forgetfulness” that individuals often experience as they age, but rather a diagnosable medical condition. Therefore, it is critical that patients seek treatment for dementia.
Although dementia-related diseases are typically progressive, there are treatments and therapies that can slow the progression of the disease and improve a patient’s quality of life. Since numerous diseases can be associated with dementia, it is critical to talk with your medical provider and obtain a proper diagnosis. This will allow your physician to develop the most effective combination of therapies to improve outcomes.
It is also important to note that other diseases, such as thyroid problems and vitamin deficiencies can also cause dementia-like symptoms. These disorders may require other treatment options and can sometimes be corrected. While memory loss may at times seem hopeless, a proper diagnosis and treatment can greatly improve your quality of life.
Marshall Health and the Maier Institute are dedicated to advancing research and care for patients with dementia-related diseases. We have taken critical steps to ensure you and your loved ones have access to state-of-the-art dementia care. Browse this site to learn more about the direct patient care we provide and the support system we also have in place for primary care providers, families and caregivers.
A list of additional local, state and national resources are also available on our Additional Resources page.