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Shattering the myths
There are many myths surrounding dementia, some of which you’ll find here. Once you understand the myths, you’ll be better able to face the reality of dementia with the facts.
Myth: Because someone in my family has dementia, I am going to get it.
Reality: While genetics do play a role in the development of some forms of dementia, the majority of cases do not have a strong, known genetic link.
Myth: Dementia only affects older people.
Reality: While most people with dementia are over the age of 65; a small number of people in their 40’s and 50’s can and do develop dementia. Most people do not develop dementia as they age; dementia is not a normal part of aging.
Myth: There is a cure for dementia.
Reality: Some dementias are reversible; however, many, such as Alzheimer’s disease, do not yet have a cure.
Myth: Memory loss means dementia.
Reality: People naturally forget things from time to time. When memory loss affects day-to-day function, it is important to visit a doctor to determine the cause. Many forms of dementia do not have memory loss as their first symptom so any unexplained changes in mood, behaviour or ability should be checked out by a doctor.
Myth: Dementia is preventable.
Reality: Alzheimer’s disease cannot be prevented. Strokes and cardiovascular diseases are implicated in over 50% of dementias and their risk can be reduced by maintaining physical activity, having good nutrition, controlling blood pressure and being socially active. Symptoms of dementia caused by drug interactions, vitamin deficiencies or severe depression can be reversed.
Myth: Vitamins, supplements and memory boosters can prevent dementia.
Reality: The research findings linking these substances to the prevention of dementia are inconclusive.
Myth: A diagnosis of dementia means life is over.
Reality: Many people with dementia live meaningful, active lives for a number of years. Some put their energy into public speaking and advocacy to help reduce the stigma that many people with dementia experience.
Myth: All people who have dementia become violent and aggressive.
Reality: Dementia affects each person differently and certainly not all become aggressive. Loss of memory and an increasing inability to understand what is happening around them can cause people with dementia to express their frustration through their behaviour. Taking steps to make the environment as comfortable and calming as possible can avoid many upsetting situations for both the person with dementia and people nearby.
Myth: People with dementia cannot understand what is going on around them.
Reality: This can vary from person to person and from time to time. Although the person’s ability to communicate verbally may become impaired as the dementia progresses, it is important to try to reach the person, often through the senses, such as by touch or listening to music. All persons with dementia have the right to be treated with respect.
Myth: If I’m diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, it means my life is over.
Reality: If you or someone you know is diagnosed with the disease, you can live meaningfully and actively for many years. Eating a heart-healthy diet, exercising regularly, staying socially connected and doing things that challenge your brain also help slow disease progression. While medications may not work well for everyone, they are most effective in the early stages of the disease. That’s why early diagnosis is important.
Myth: My mother had Alzheimer’s, so I’m going to get it too.
Reality: Familial Alzheimer’s disease accounts for less than 5% of all cases of Alzheimer’s disease.
Myth: There’s a cure for it.
Reality: Alzheimer’s disease remains incurable. However, medications, support and care early in the disease can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life.
Myth: Memory loss means Alzheimer’s disease.
Reality: Not necessarily. You may experience trouble with your memory as you age. However, if memory loss affects your day-to-day ability to function, communicate or is accompanied by a decrease in judgment or reasoning ability, it’s best to see your doctor immediately.
Myth: Aluminum causes Alzheimer’s disease.
Reality: There is no conclusive evidence that shows this.
Myth: Alzheimer’s disease can be prevented.
Reality: No single treatment can prevent it. Exercising your mind and body, eating a heart-healthy diet, reducing stress and staying socially active may all help reduce your risk.
Myth: Taking supplements can prevent it.
Reality: There have been many studies on vitamins E, B, and C, gingko biloba, folate and selenium in preventing dementia. The findings have been inconclusive.
Download our brochure for more details on myths and misconceptions. The Alzheimer Society would like to put an end to the myths surrounding Alzheimer’s disease. Learn about the disease. Seek help. Treat people with the disease with respect.