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The world of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias can be intimidating to newcomers. After a diagnosis, many family members and caregivers are overwhelmed by the amount of new information that they forget to ask basic questions. Below is a glossary with dementia and Alzheimer’s related information. For a more in-depth look at Alzheimer’s disease visit

Dementia- a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with one’s daily life. Dementia is not a specific disease, rather an overall term to describe the wide range of symptoms associated with decline in cognitive function.


Alzheimer’s Disease- a general term for the loss of memory and decline of other cognitive abilities that are serious enough to interfere with daily life.  Alzheimer’s diagnoses account for 60-80 % of dementia diagnosis and is the most common form of dementia.


Vascular dementia- a decline in the ability to think caused by conditions that block or reduce blood flow to the brain, depriving cells of oxygen and nutrients. In vascular dementia, changes in thinking skills sometimes occur suddenly following strokes that block major brain blood vessels. It is the second most common form of dementia


Dementia with Lewy bodies-  a type of progressive dementia that leads to a decline in thinking, reasoning and independent function because of abnormal microscopic deposits that damage brain cells over time. It is the third most common form of dementia.


Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) - refers to a group of disorders caused by progressive nerve cell loss in the brain's frontal lobes (the areas behind your forehead) or its temporal lobes (the regions behind your ears).


Parkinson’s disease: a progressive nervous system disorder that affects how a person moves, including how they speak and write.


Mixed dementia: characterized by the presence of the hallmark abnormalities of Alzheimer’s and another type of dementia.


Mild cognitive impairment: an intermediate stage between the expected cognitive decline of normal aging and the more-serious decline of dementia. It can involve problems with memory, language, thinking and judgment that are greater than normal age-related changes


Cognitive abilities: Mental skills such as judgment, memory, learning, comprehension, and reasoning


Functional impairment: means being unable to dress, use the toilet, eat, bathe or walk without help.


Assessment: An assessment of mental status is a test of a person's ability to think, feel and react to others. A doctor usually performs a mental status assessment.

Activities of daily living: include eating, bathing, grooming, dressing and going to the toilet. People with dementia may need aid to perform these tasks. Questions about ADLs help decide what type of care a person needs.


Disorientation: Losing your sense of time, direction, and recognition. With Alzheimer’s, this can happen even in very familiar settings or with people you’ve known for a long time, including family members.


Hallucination: Seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, or feeling something that is not there.


Geriatrician: A doctor who specializes in the medical care and treatment of older adults


Neurologist: A doctor who is trained to diagnose and treat disorders of the nervous system.


Adult day centers: offer people with Alzheimer's and other dementias the opportunity to be social and to participate in activities in a safe environment.


Respite care: provides temporary relief from caregiving tasks. Such care could include in-home assistance, a short nursing home stay or adult day care.


Support groups: A group of Alzheimer's caregivers who connect to share experiences, provide support and give advice. Support groups can meet face-to-face with a support group leader or meet online.


Elder law attorney: An elder law attorney handles general estate planning issues and counsels clients about planning for the future with alternative decision-making documents. The attorney can also assist the client in planning for possible long-term care needs, including nursing home care. Not all attorneys specialize in elder law.

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