The Difference Between Dementia and Senility

Resident at Elmcroft Senior Living 01/12/2017

When an adult child begins to notice changes in a senior loved one, they might wonder if it is normal aging or something else. It’s often hard for families to understand the differences when it comes to aging vs. dementia vs. senility. But there are distinct differences.

The Differences Between Dementia and Senility

People often mistakenly think that dementia is just another name for Alzheimer’s disease, and that dementia and senility are one and the same.

But dementia is actually a variety of medical conditions and illnesses that impair a person’s cognitive health. Alzheimer’s disease is one type of dementia.

Typical dementia symptoms can include memory loss, decline in abstract thought process, loss of verbal communication skills and a change in personality.

There are a number of different types of dementia. A few of the more common ones include:

  • Alzheimer’s disease – accounting for as much as 70 – 80% of all dementias
  • Parkinson’s dementia – occurring in the later stages of Parkinson’s disease
  • Vascular dementia – caused by a stroke or other interruption of blood flow to the brain

Senility, by contrast, is an older term used to describe a decline in an older adult’s physical and cognitive health. Like dementia, senility can cause changes in mental health, such as memory loss or a decline in judgment.

But senility symptoms can also include physical changes such as:

  • Stiff joints
  • Change in posture
  • Decreased strength
  • Wrinkling of the skin
  • Loss of vision or hearing
  • Brittle bones or bone loss

It’s important to note that the term “senile” has taken on a negative connotation in recent years. A lack of understanding and sensitivity to the challenges of aging have led to an improper use of the word making it sound like a slur on someone’s mental capacity instead of a true health condition.

Resources to Help Families Learn More about Aging Related Issues

If a senior you love is struggling with aging-related challenges, there are a variety of online resources you might find helpful.

  • Elmcroft Senior Living Resource Center: In our resource center you will find articles on a variety of caregiver, aging and senior care topics. Financial options and rates for our local senior living communities are also located here.
  • Family Caregiver Alliance: This site was created by the National Center on Caregiving. On it you will find forums to connect with other caregivers online, as well as educational guides with information on diseases family caregivers may be trying to learn more about. Topics range from Dementia with Lewy Bodies to Frontotemporal Dementia and Stroke.
  • Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregiver Center: The Alzheimer’s Association created this dedicated area of their site to helping dementia caregivers with the unique challenges they face. With topics ranging from legal issues to respite care, the Caregiver Center is rich in quality resources.

Dedicated Memory Care at Elmcroft Senior Living

If you are struggling to keep a loved one with dementia safe and engaged in productive activity at home, they might benefit from a move to Memory Care. The Heartland Village programs at Elmcroft Senior Living can be a solution. Call the community nearest you to schedule a private tour today!