What’s the Difference?

You say Alzheimer’s. I say dementia. Potato. Potahto. Tomato. Tomahto…. (Those of you under 50 will need to follow the link to understand the connection!)

Before my mom’s diagnosis, I didn’t know the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia – or if there even was one. I didn’t want to know. But what I discovered as I journeyed with my mom was that knowledge is power.

Knowledge is power.jpgAccording to the Alzheimer’s Association, dementia is not a specific disease. It’s an overall term that describes a group of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities.

Just as cancer is an umbrella term that covers many forms (breast, ovarian, testicular, skin, blood, etc.), dementia is also an umbrella term. Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia, as is vascular dementia (following a stroke), dementia with Lewy Bodies, and Parkinson’s dementia (which results as Parkinson’s disease progresses).

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of dementia cases (see www.alz.org). It’s the term that strikes terror in everyone’s heart as most of us have dealt with it on a personal level (a parent, grandparent or other relative, an older friend) and worry that we too may develop it. The statistics around the growing personal, national, and international impact of Alzheimer’s are staggering.

But there’s hope. Each year there are new developments in identifying symptoms, making more accurate diagnoses, and understanding how to deal with the issues and behaviors that emerge. Not that long ago, older people with a decline in memory and behavior were labeled senile and closed off from society. Now countries like Denmark are creating “dementia villages” as a way to keep people safe yet allow them to participate in daily life as best they can. While this idea has been met with mixed reviews, it shows an expansion in the thinking around caring for the elderly.

The first step in facing dementia and its various forms is understanding the basics. Fear of the unknown can keep us from becoming informed, which prevents us from being prepared to move forward. Being familiar with the terminology will expand your comfort and allow you to ask more questions.

Above all, remember Who is actually in control of the situation. Gird yourself with knowledge about the issues, but find your strength in the Creator who already knows the battle you face. He’ll provide all that you need as you navigate the journey. As John Piper so eloquently reminds us, “What is the deepest root of your joy? What God gives to you? Or what God is to you?”

And that’s my Tuesday Truth.

LongestDaylogoOn June 21, I’ll be releasing my newest book, Open Circle, and participating in The Longest Day through the Alzheimer’s Association. I invite you to participate either by creating your own Longest Day activity to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association, or donating through my team page. Working together is the only way we can beat this disease.

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