Common questions about dementia
Get the answers to the most common questions about dementia.
Note: The information in this site is not presented as a substitute for informed medical advice. Each person's experience with dementia is unique; please see your doctor or another qualified healthcare provider to get answers specific to you.
Have more questions? You can reach out to your local Society for more help and support! You can also send your questions to the Alzheimer Society of Canada at [email protected].
Is there a cure for Alzheimer's disease?
No. But that doesn't mean there won't be one.
There is no cure for Alzheimer's disease or any other type of dementia...yet.
Every day, researchers in Canada and around the world uncover a little more about this perplexing umbrella of diseases. Thanks to their research, one day we will have a cure – and we will see a world without Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.
I always forget where I leave my keys. Does this mean I have dementia?
No. There's more to dementia than memory challenges.
If you are experiencing difficulties with your memory, know that they may not be signs of dementia. Instead, you may be experiencing memory loss as a part of normal aging. It's important to know that dementia is not a normal part of aging.
- Memory loss is also just one symptom of dementia – there are other symptoms and warning signs to watch out for.
- There are also conditions similar to dementia, but have different symptoms, risk factors, treatments and more.
- Only a diagnosis provided by your doctor or a qualified healthcare provider can tell you for sure whether or not you have dementia.
Whether your memory challenges are due to dementia or not, the Alzheimer Society has the resources to help you manage them.
Someone in my family has dementia. Does this mean I will get dementia too?
It's possible, but the chances are very small.
Most people living with the most common type of dementia – Alzheimer's disease – did not get it from a family member. Familial Alzheimer's disease, where Alzheimer's is inherited, is less than 5% of all cases.
If you're thinking about getting genetic testing for Alzheimer’s disease, know that genetic testing is only an option for families that have young-onset familial Alzheimer's disease. In other cases, genetic testing is too unreliable to accurately predict whether you will get Alzheimer's or not.
Learn more about the role genetics play in Alzheimer's disease.
There are other, less common, types of dementia that can have a genetic link, but chances are still small. For example, only 10% of people diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, one of the rarest types of dementia, have a family history of the disease.
Learn about the other types of dementia to know what their genetic risk factors are like.
Overall, genetics is just one risk factor among many for dementia. While genetics is not something you can change, there are other risk factors you can manage to reduce your risk of dementia.
Can a person die from dementia?
Yes. Dementia reduces life expectancy of the person who has it.
Dementia is a fatal, progressive, degenerative disease of the brain, where brain cells continue to die over time. Right now, there is no cure and no treatments that can stop and reverse dementia symptoms like cognitive decline. Eventually the body will shut down from the lack of instructions from the brain.
Learn more about the stages of Alzheimer's disease, the most common type of dementia.
What can you do?
- If you don't have dementia, it's important to know what the risk factors are and take steps to protect your brain and reduce your risk.
- If you have dementia, it's important to live a brain-healthy lifestyle and take appropriate treatments so you can live as well as possible.
- If you're caring for someone who is living with dementia, it's important to know how you can maintain their quality of life.
Can my family doctor diagnose Alzheimer's disease?
Yes. Only your doctor or a qualified healthcare provider can provide an official diagnosis.
A diagnosis of dementia requires a comprehensive assessment that rules out other possibilities.
Family doctors are often able to do this assessment during a series of office visits. They may refer you or someone you know to a memory clinic or a specialist, such as a geriatrician or neurologist.
If you don't have a family doctor who can provide you with a diagnosis, contact your local Alzheimer Society. We can link you to qualified healthcare providers in your community who can help.
You should not diagnose yourself or someone you know, even if it's through something like an online self-assessment.
Can I get dementia if I'm under 65?
Yes. While the chances are small, it's still possible to get dementia before you reach retirement age.
As you get older, your risk of dementia increases. Age is the biggest risk factor for dementia, but there are other risk factors that can cause dementia in someone in their 40s, 50s and early 60s. When this happens, it's called early or young onset dementia.
People living with young onset dementia must face their own set of unique challenges, such as:
- Balancing work-life responsibilities with the realities of dementia,
- Finding it harder to get help and support aimed toward their age group and
- Not being taken seriously when they say they've been diagnosed with dementia, due to dementia being generally perceived as an "old person's disease".
Is there a difference between Alzheimer's disease and dementia?
Yes. Alzheimer's is a type of dementia. Not all people living with dementia are living with Alzheimer's.
We often link any mention of "dementia" to "Alzheimer's disease". Alzheimer's is the most common type of dementia, accounting for 60 to 80% of all diagnoses.
However, there are other types of dementia, like vascular dementia and frontotemporal dementia, that we should be aware of. These types can have unique symptoms, risk factors and treatments, among other differences. By knowing more about these differences, we can provide better help and support to the people living with these less common types of dementia.
Learn more about the difference between Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.
I know someone living with dementia. Is there anything I can do to help them?
Yes. Plenty of ways!
The first step to helping someone is to understand the challenges they are facing. The Alzheimer Society has plenty of resources for you to learn more about dementia, including how to recognize symptoms, communicate using person-centred language and fight harmful stigma.
You can also contact your local Society directly for advice and support. We are ready to help!