By Jim McAleer, President & CEO 


What is the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia? 

Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly impairs memory and cognitive skills, and eventually the ability to carry out even the simplest tasks.  

Many people use “Alzheimer’s disease” and “dementia” interchangeably believing they are the same thing. However, dementia is an umbrella term for a set of symptoms that includes impaired thinking and memory. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, but there are other causes including Huntington’s Disease, Lewy Body, Parkison’s Disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease among others. 

Regardless of what type of dementia your loved one may have, we can help. 


How are Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia affecting Orange County? 

Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death for older adults in the nation but is the 3rd leading cause of death in older adults in Orange County. Over 84,000 people live with the disease today and nearly 12% of adults aged 65 and older are believed to have Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia in the county. That percentage is higher than the state and national averages, partly due to our aging population and ethnic diversity in the County.  

Behind those numbers are thousands of real people, real families dealing with healthcare, social, emotional, and financial challenges.  


Is there a cure for Alzheimer’s? 

Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but until there is Alzheimer’s Orange County provides support for those affected.  

We remain committed to being a partner that can walk hand-in-hand alongside families and individuals living with this disease through all stages of their journey. Click here or call our Helpline at 844-373-4400 to speak to a dementia expert to learn more about our services and how to get connected to local clinical trials and research efforts.  


What are some signs of the disease?  

It’s normal to forget things occasionally, but when someone starts to experience memory loss that disrupts their daily life, it may be a sign of a cognitive disorder like Alzheimer’s. Keep in mind that Alzheimer’s can affect everyone differently so the symptoms may vary from person to person. Some of those symptoms may include: 

  • Difficulty planning or solving problems 
  • Forgetting how to do familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure  
  • Confusion with dates, time and place 
  • Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships 
  • New problems with words in speaking or writing 
  • Misplacing objects and losing the ability to retrace steps 
  • Decreased or poor judgment 
  • Withdrawal from work or social activities  
  • Mood swings and changes in personality 


What can I do to reduce my risk for Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia? 

Work on protecting your brain health and reducing your risk regardless of your age. Making adjustments in your life to ensure you’re getting enough quality sleep, eating well (Mediterranean diet and other heart-healthy diets) and staying physically and socially active are just a few ways you can work towards living a brain-healthy lifestyle. Visit our MindFit OC page to learn more about our brain health and memory training programs to help you get started. 


How can I help people I know that are living with Alzheimer’s? 

If you are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or another related dementia, the first step is to seek support. Remember, you are not alone! Get educated, connect with others, and learn about the resources available we offer that can help you prepare and cope in you and your loved one’s journey.  

When you care for someone, it’s essential that you make sure you’re also caring for yourself. Think of it this way; when you need to put on an oxygen mask on a plane, we’re told to put on our mask before helping others. The same principle applies to caregiving. Maintaining a self-care routine and managing your mental health is crucial to your well-being and avoiding burnout. 

Here are some self-care strategies you can try.  

Even if you’re not the primary caregiver or care for someone with the disease there’s still a lot that you can do to help your family and friends. Here are some suggestions: 

  • Educate yourself. Try to learn about the disease, how it impacts those who have it and best practices for how you can interact with those experiencing dementia. Ask the caregiver in your life to see how you can get started. 
  • Raise awareness. Share resources, information and advocate on behalf of our local dementia community. Participating in our annual Walk4ALZ in the spring is a great and fun way to get involved.  
  • Stay connected. Many caregivers experience elevated levels of stress and are at increased risk of isolation. Helping run errands, bringing a meal, calling them, and offering to assist with other care-related tasks are just some ways you can make a positive difference.  


How can I support Alzheimer’s Orange County? 

For 40 years, Alzheimer’s Orange County has helped thousands of Orange County residents get the support they need. Today the need for our services is projected to grow even more, but with the help of our community we’re stepping up to the challenge. If you know someone who is experiencing memory loss, Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia, please send them our way. 

Consider donating to support our life-changing services if you can. Whatever you can give goes a long way and if you decide to give on Giving Tuesday on November 29, 2022, you can double your impact. Every donation made on that day will be matched by an anonymous donor up to $15,000 


Additional reading & related information 

 9 Tips for the Holiday Season 

2022 Impact Report

November is National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and National Family Caregiver Month.

Help us commemorate and raise awareness during National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and National Family Caregiver Month by sharing information and resources like this article to spread the word. If you’re interested in sharing your caregiver or Alzheimer’s story, please email us at If you or someone you know is affected by dementia, contact us at 844-373-4400 to talk to one of our dementia specialists.