Common Misconceptions About Dementia
The World Health Organization estimates that more than 50 million people across the globe have dementia. Furthermore, at least 10 million new cases arise annually. Unfortunately, these statistics mean that most people know at least one person who has lived with or currently lives with dementia.
If you or a loved one has dementia, knowledge is power. Not only does correct information allow you to better advocate for your loved one and plan for the future, but it can also allow you the comfort of knowing more about what to expect from the disease. However, there are quite a few common misconceptions about dementia out there. Here are some of them so that you can learn the truths that will help you continue to know more about this disease.
Below are the common misconceptions about dementia:
Dementia is inevitable with age
This statement is not true. Dementia is not a normal part of aging.
According to a report that the Alzheimer’s Association published, Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common form of dementia, affects 3% of people aged 65–74 years in the U.S.
As a result of the risk increasing as we age, 17% of people aged 75–84 years and 32% of people aged 85 years and older have a dementia diagnosis.
All types of memory loss are a sign of dementia
“One of the biggest misconceptions about dementia is that every kind of memory loss someone might experience is Alzheimer’s disease and that’s not true,” Dr. Sicotte says.
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, there are many other types.
Dr. Sicotte says that a combination of underlying changes in the brain can cause memory loss, but memory loss is only one component of diagnosing dementia.
Faces of Cedars-Sinai: Neurologist Nancy Sicotte
Dementia only affects older people.
Reality: Dementia can affect people from their 30s onwards.
Dementia is a progressive, degenerative disease of the brain. People over 65 are most likely to get it, but dementia can appear in people under retirement age. When this happens, it’s known as young onset dementia.
Learn more about young onset dementia.
Drinking out of aluminum cans or cooking in aluminum pots and pans can lead to Alzheimer’s disease.
Reality: During the 1960s and 1970s, aluminum emerged as a possible suspect in Alzheimer’s. This suspicion led to concern about exposure to aluminum through everyday sources such as pots and pans, beverage cans, antacids and antiperspirants. Since then, studies have failed to confirm any role for aluminum in causing Alzheimer’s. Experts today focus on other areas of research, and few believe that everyday sources of aluminum pose any threat.
Flu shots increase risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Reality: A theory linking flu shots to a greatly increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease has been proposed by a U.S. doctor whose license was suspended by the South Carolina Board of Medical Examiners. Several mainstream studies link flu shots and other vaccinations to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease and overall better health.
If someone in your family has dementia, that means you will get it as well.
Fact: Some forms of dementia have a genetic component, but there is not a strong genetic link in most cases.
While dementia is genetic and inherited in some cases, not all cases of dementia are hereditary. If a family member has dementia, it may indicate a higher risk of developing dementia, but this is not a guarantee. Some forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, are more prone to being passed on through families. Other forms of dementia, such as those caused by brain injuries or Lyme disease, are less likely to impact multiple family members.
Dementia is untreatable and cannot be slowed down
There is no cure for dementia, but early symptoms can be managed through a combination of medication and lifestyle changes.
Early diagnosis is important for successful treatment and extended quality of life.
You can also support risk reduction strategies. Just as you would with heart disease and stroke, you can advise your patients to make life changes that reduce the likelihood they will develop dementia – the earlier, the better.
People living with dementia don’t understand what’s happening around them
This is another frequent myth related to dementia. Many people believe that because those living with dementia struggle to communicate effectively, it means that they are not aware of what is happening around them. However, the part of the brain which deals with communication is separate to the area which deals with awareness. This means that, sadly, most do have thoughts to communicate although they struggle to relay these.
People with Alzheimer’s have no hope.
Learning how to live with the disease is key to continuing a meaningful life. Early diagnosis and medications can help. Additionally, caregivers and the person with Alzheimer’s should both seek out support groups and learn to revise life goals and how to offer and/or accept help. In loving environments, people with the disease can participate and enjoy life many years after diagnosis.
While there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s or dementia, it’s important to recognize the signs and talk to your doctor about the risk factors.