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Alzheimer's Disease or Dementia? What Have I Got?

Updated on September 23, 2017
marieryan profile image

I started learning Spanish classical guitar several years ago, after falling in love with some wonderful classical pieces.

What's the difference between Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease?

The fear of Dementia and Alzheimer's disease is upon us. It's very real and it's very frightening.

There is no doubt we are living longer, due to medical advancements. This should be a reason for jubilation, and it often is. Unfortunately there are times when Dementia rears its ugly head.

What exactly is the difference between the terms 'Dementia' and 'Alzheimer's Disease'?

I must admit that until recently, and until this issue became personal to me, I was not clear about the difference between 'Dementia' and 'Alzheimer's Disease'. I believe I was using both terms interchangeably.

According to several websites I have consulted, Dementia is a diagnosis of a set of symptoms; primarily, impaired thinking and/ or memory loss. Dementia can be caused by several conditions,one of which is Alzheimer's Disease. Other conditions which may lead to Dementia are Parkinson's Disease, Huntington's Disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.

Please see the link below:

This just wasn't working properly.
This just wasn't working properly. | Source

"Just a check-up." (That's what they said!)

I had been aware that I had been losing hearing on one side for some time.

"Just a check up to make sure there's nothing untoward going on, Señora."

That's what they so lightly said to me in the Spanish hospital I was attending. The lovely lady doctor sent me for an MRI scan the following week, just to make sure there wasn't anything seriously wrong.

By that she explained she meant she was checking that there wasn't a tumour resting against my auditory nerve. If that were the case, then it would mean that my loss of hearing was simply age-related (Hooray? That was good news?) and that I would be able to purchase a hearing aid to fix my problems.

Now the idea that you might have a tumour on the brain, pressing against the auditory nerve is not a very comforting one.

Needless to say I went through several weeks of worry and sleepless nights. It was a very worrying time for me to say the least.

Finally the day arrived for me to have the long awaited MRI scan, which was supposed to put my mind (!) at rest. Unfortunately there was other news lurking behind my ear.

MRI Scan....MRI Scare!

I had no idea what to expect when they led me into the room...What an experience!

I was strapped into the 'stretcher' attached to the machine and was told be completely still for 45 minutes. Well, that made me nervous enough! how on earth was I going to keep completely still for so long?

The nurse also said I would hear very strange 'banging' noises. Sometimes the noises would be very loud, but not to worry!

She then proceeded to place big ear muffs on my head to protect my ears from the loud bangs. (I found this quite ironic as I had turned up for this test precisely because I couldn't hear very well.)

She also gave me a panic button to hold at all time. She told me to press the button only in the event of emergency, claustrophobia or anything other reason I would need to vacate the machine.

I thought she was exaggerating.

I was so, so wrong!

An image of an MRI Scanning machine, similar to the one I used.
An image of an MRI Scanning machine, similar to the one I used. | Source

I was so wrong

The noise, even with the ear protectors, was deafening (No irony intended here.)

It was as if someone was banging on the outside of the metal casing trying to get in. Then the banging would stop, the beast would whirr for a few moments and then fall silent, only to start banging and whirring again.

There was no logical pattern or regular beat to any of it. It was maddening and it was deafening!

In a vain attempt to put some structure or timing to my situation, I counted to myself in minutes for forty-five minutes.

[Note to self: This cannot work so don't try this again.]

My doctor was worried!

This could have been my doctor, looking perplexed
This could have been my doctor, looking perplexed | Source

Results of MRI scan

Finally it was the day to receive the results of the scan.

My doctor was worried, but I was worried even more so.

She looked long and hard at the X-ray in front of her and said: You may have either the onset of Dementia, but then again it may only be Multiple Sclerosis.

This was a lot to assimilate from one sentence.

I really did not wish to have either. It was quite bizarre that she seemed to hold out some hope for me that I may "only " have Multiple Sclerosis. It sort of just didn't sound right.

But there was one more test I had to undergo before a final diagnosis could be made. I hoped with all my heart I wouldn't have to go through the MRI scan again.

"Oh no, not another scan, just a Lumbar Puncture."

MRI Brain Scan

MRI Scan of brain
MRI Scan of brain | Source

Results and final diagnosis

The good news or the bad news?

The good news was a NEGATIVE result for multiple sclerosis. Hooray!

The bad news was, by default, a diagnosis of early onset of Dementia, probably caused by Alzheimer's Disease. (Now I know the difference.)

So, just by chance, because I went to the doctor to have my hearing checked, I was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease!

Where do I go from here?

I have become aware of my mortality from one week to the next and I'm facing it head (!) on.

I will exercise my mind as much as possible and follow all the advice I'm given, in order to delay the progression of this disease.

I am not going to let this diagnosis define me for the rest of my life.

Bucket List

In fact, the diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease has actually fired me up to create my 'bucket list' fast and to start hitting some goals.

One of my goals is to build up my Hubpages area, which I have been working on for many years now, but sometimes keep abandoning.

I have always been into languages and language learning, so I'm going to pick up where I left off with some languages I always wanted to perfect but got lazy.

The Mayo Clinic have an interesting article about the benefits of language learning for the brain.

I will talk about that in more detail in a following post.

What next?

I don't know what's next for me, or for how long I will be able to function in a 'normal' manner.

However, I am determined to carry on, not as usual, but with renewed vigour and strength, in an attempt to stave off the beast and achieve at least some of my humble goals in life.

What else can I do?

Please share any thoughts about Dementia and/or Alzheimer's disease below. Do you know anyone suffering from Dementia? Are you suffering yourself?

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    • kiddiecreations profile image

      Nicole Kiddie Granath 2 weeks ago

      My grandpa has moderate dementia and we are helping with his care (my husband and I). I really admire your positive attitude and determination to get things checked off your bucket list that are important to you. I think your positive spirit will definitely help on your journey!

    • marieryan profile image

      Marie Ryan 6 months ago from Andalusia, Spain

      Hi Dora, Thank you so much for your comment and good advice.

      I really appreciate your interest and kind words.

      I hope to learn a new attitude for life, which sometimes we take for granted. I'm really seeing my life with new eyes at the moment.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 6 months ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks for sharing your experience and for demonstrating such a sensible attitude. Whatever you do, don't stop enjoying the habit of living! Appreciate and enjoy every day as much as you can, in the best way you can. Best to you, going forward.