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 40s and 50s 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.