Dementia Fact or Fiction

Fact or Fiction: Debunking the myths of Alzheimer's disease

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Over the years, many myths have evolved about what Alzheimer’s disease is, who gets it and how it affects people who have it. These myths can add to the stigma attached to the disease and stand in the way of our ability to understand and help people with it. At the Alzheimer Society, we believe the sooner we dispel the myths, the better we’ll be able to respond to the reality.

FACT OR FICTION: My mother had Alzheimer’s, so I’m going to get it too.

FICTION! Although genetics play a role in the disease, fewer than seven per cent of cases are associated with genes that cause the early onset inherited familial form of the disease (FAD). The majority of cases are of the late onset “sporadic Alzheimer’s disease” form, in which genes do not play a role. A person who has a parent or a sibling who has or had sporadic Alzheimer’s disease has a very slightly increased risk of getting the disease.

FACT OR FICTION: Alzheimer's only affects the elderly.

FICTION! While age is the most significant known risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, most people in fact do not develop the disease as they age. However, even with the sporadic form of the disease, people have on occasion been diagnosed with it in their 40s and 50s. What’s most important to understand is that Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging.

FACT OR FICTION: There’s no cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

FACT! At present there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but there are medications and other approaches that, in the first few years, can often successfully help with some of the symptoms and improve quality of life. The good news is that researchers have made great strides and there are a number of drugs in clinical trials that act directly against the disease process.

FACT OR FICTION: If I’m diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, it means my life is over.

FICTION! Many people with the disease live meaningful active lives for quite a number of years. They have a sense of purpose and do not feel their lives are over. Research indicates that making healthy lifestyle choices can help to slow the progression of the disease. Earlier diagnosis and medications are helping. It is also important to have access to services and activities for people with the disease to optimize their quality of life.

FACT OR FICTION: If I start to forget things it means I have Alzheimer’s disease.

FICTION! Many people have trouble with their memory as they get older, but that in itself does not mean they have Alzheimer’s disease. When memory loss affects day-to-day function, and especially when this is coupled with lack of judgment and reasoning, or changes in communication abilities, it’s best to visit a doctor to determine the cause of the symptoms.

Last Updated: 11/08/2017