Alzheimer's vs. dementia. How can you tell the difference between these two illnesses?


My 93 year old mother has been diagnosed with De mentia but she is so forgetful that I wonder if she could also have Alzheimer? She cannot remember anything current but can go back to her past as a child. She has been staying with my brother for 3 months and still forgets she is living with him and wants to go back home. She is not longer in a position to take care of herself.

Also, is excessive sleeping a part of either of these illnesses? She sleep all day and stays awake part of the night but she sometimes does not get up until the afternoon and she is always wanting to take a nap. She has lost her desire to get out at all and stays in her pajamas most of the time. She rarely gets dressed and does not even want to get out to get her hair done which was always a fun time for her. Now she just wants to stay in all the time and we cannot get her up to eat a lot of the time. She just wants to sleep. But, she is fidgety during the night.

She went out the back door last week when my brother was not at home and went to the neighbors and said she was locked out. They called my brother and he told them where the sparryinge key was to let her back in. But, the worst part was she went out the back door that was unlocked but then forget about it and was trying to get in the front door that was locked. She did not remember going out the back door at all.

I would appreciate any information on the difference between these two illnesses and any comments on how to handle her wandering.

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The part about your Mom sleeping a lot, you got to remember she is in her 90's, she's tired. Then mix in medicines like blood pressure pills which can make you even more tired. I've noticed with myself, I don't have half the energy I had 20 years ago, I will fall asleep watching the 5pm news :P
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There are about 50 kinds of dementia. Alzheimer's in one of them, the most well known one, and then there are Lewy Body Dementia, Vascular Dementia, Frontal Lobal Dementia, and on and on. Often it is clear that a patient has dementia, but not as obvious as to what kind it is.

Short term memory loss is very common in most kinds of dementia. Sleep disturbances are also common -- perhaps more common in some forms than in others. Whatever kind of dementia she has, you and the doctors simply deal with the symptoms as they come up.

It sounds like she may be at a point where she cannot be left alone in the house. That may be more than her son bargained for when he moved her in with him. Getting some in-home care, such as an aide for a few hours several times a week might be enough. Dementia progresses (which means it gets worse). There may come a point where it will be best for Mom to be in a care center, where staff is available around the clock.
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If she has a history of cardiac problems, it could be vascular dementia. The hallmark of Alzheimer's is hallucination, but you don't mention that. The sleepiness could be from medications, so take a good look at all her meds. If she is mixing them up, she will be very confused. It's time to talk to her MD about what facility would suit her best.
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