The truth about dementia and Alzheimer’s

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t’s important to know the distinctions between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The number of individuals diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer’s is rising, but understand that the terms are not synonymous.

In brief, dementia is a syndrome, or group of symptoms, that causes loss of intellectual function, and usually progresses over time. Alzheimer’s is the leading cause of dementia and the one we hear about the most.

In other words, not all people who are diagnosed with dementia have Alzheimer’s disease.

To explore it a bit further, consider that, according to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, dementia is the “deterioration of intellectual faculties, such as memory, concentration and judgment, resulting from an organic disease or a disorder of the brain. It is sometimes accompanied by emotional disturbance and personality changes.”

There are conditions other than Alzheimer’s, such as depression, that also will cause these symptoms. Careful diagnosis of any dementia is essential in determining proper treatment and intervention.

Some types of dementia may be reversible. Possible causes of reversible dementia include depression, drug use, alcohol and other poisons, nutritional deficiencies, brain disorders, certain diseases, metabolic conditions, organ dysfunction, traumatic brain injury, brain tumor, hydrocephalus, syphilis, encephalitis and meningitis.

Alzheimer’s, on the other hand, is an irreversible form of dementia. However, with appropriate interventions, even irreversible dementias can be managed. Family caregivers should seek reliable education and other assistance wherever possible. A good place to start is the doctor’s office, which typically has resources to get families started with this difficult process.

Feel free to e-mail me with questions at For more about my practice, visit

For more information on the different types of dementia, visit any of these websites:
The Mayo Clinic
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
The National Alzheimer’s Association (Look under “related dementias”)
Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center
Web MD

About Anthony B. Ferraro

Anthony B. Ferraro is the founder and managing member at the Law Offices of Anthony B. Ferraro. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in accountancy from DePaul University and his Master of Science in taxation. After receiving his CPA designation in 1978, he enrolled in law school, earning his Juris Doctor in 1983 from De Paul University. An elder law practitioner, his practice areas include Medicaid planning and applications, guardianship, probate & trust administration, long-term care planning, nursing home contracts and admission, senior estate planning, special needs planning, estate planning, and estate taxation.

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