Debunking 7 Myths About Dementia
Dementia is a mental disorder that has the highest rate of occurrence but is still poorly understood. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, in 2017 there were 5.5 million cases of dementia reported in the United States. Globally, there are 9.9 million cases, which means that every 3 seconds, someone around the globe develops this condition. That’s a lot! In this article, we discuss 7 of the most common myths associated with dementia.
Myth: Dementia is Natural
Dementia is not a natural aging process. In fact, only 1 out of 10 elderly people develop dementia, and many people will find that they can grow well into their 80’s and 90’s without a significant memory decline. It is easy to mistake normal aging with dementia, but with a little bit of research, you will find that these conditions are not all that similar. For example, normal aging might comprise of you not being able to remember details of a certain event that took place last year, but if you have dementia, this forgetfulness could extend to recent events and conversations. Also, as a dementia patient, you might notice that your relatives are worried about your memory decline although you are not aware of any issues.
Myth: Dementia is Unpreventable
More and more studies are being carried out by researchers about this worrying issue, which led to several similar outcomes – elderly people that are socially active and continue to pick up new skills and hobbies are lowering their risks of dementia, whether or not they are aware of it. In addition, you can exercise often to keep your brain and body active, and live a healthy lifestyle by refraining from smoking, eating healthy foods and reducing alcohol use to keep your blood pressure in check. The more you challenge your brain, the better your brain’s functions will be maintained! You can do this through games such as Sudoku, Luminosity, crossword puzzles and more.
Myth: Dementia Only Happens to Elderly People
Dementia is more common in elderly people, but that does not mean that it does not happen in the younger generation! If you are below the age of 65 and have developed dementia, this condition is often referred to as early-onset dementia. Early-onset dementia most commonly happens to those with a family history of this condition, and might even cause symptoms that are quite different from normal dementia. For example, while memory loss is usually the first few symptoms of dementia, early-onset dementia’s symptoms will involve symptoms such as speech and visual impediments. There are some studies that showed that early onset dementia progresses faster than that which occurs with the elderly, but this link is still weak and more research is required.
Myth: Dementia is Alzheimer’s Disease
With Alzheimer’s disease and dementia having overlapping symptoms, it is understandable why these conditions can be hard to distinguish. Dementia refers to a series of conditions and symptoms that manifest themselves when some parts of your brain malfunctions. Basically, dementia refers to a series of symptoms which happens when certain diseases cause an extensive damage to your nerve cells. Under dementia, there are about 400 different diseases that can lead to dementia, the most common of which are Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia and Lewy body disease. As such, Alzheimer’s disease is just one of the most common types of dementia instead of being the same as dementia. When you suffer from dementia, you might have more than one of the symptoms such as memory decline, difficulties in thinking and speech, solving problems, mood and behavioral changes and even carrying out general daily tasks that were of no issue when you were young.
Myth: Memory Loss Equates to Dementia
When you first suffer from dementia, it is highly likely that forgetfulness is one of the first few symptoms that you experience, which could also manifest as a worrisome severe memory loss. However, it does not necessarily mean that a person has dementia if they are dealing with memory loss. Sometimes, depression, strokes or severe vitamin deficiencies can lead to you losing your memory as well! In fact, even something seemingly minor such as infections and taking medications with an unexpected side effect can cause you to lose your memory, which could be easily mistaken for dementia. As people age, there are also some age-associated forgetfulness which is totally unrelated to dementia. If there are worrying signs of memory loss, it is best for you to consult with a medical professional to know more about your conditions.
Myth: Dementia Patients Are Clueless About What’s Happening to Them
Dementia patients most often have trouble expressing themselves rather than understanding you. As dementia patients progress with their condition, some parts in their brain that works with languages and speech may get affected, causing them to require a longer time to gather their thoughts before they can express themselves. It is better for you to communicate directly with the person in question rather than through their caregiver or family members. This is so that you can monitor your loved one’s progress personally and judge for yourself how they are doing as dementia progresses. Be patient while you are communicating with them, and soon you will find that they are still aware of what is happening around them and can understand things that are going on.
Myth: Nothing Can Be Done Once You Develop Dementia
This fact is partly true if you are talking about getting fully treated for dementia. There is no cure for dementia as of now, but there is plenty that you can do if you are looking to slow down this condition’s progress or stabilize your loved one’s condition. Currently, you can get medical treatments, community support and some life changes to stabilize dementia’s progress and slow it down, but there are plenty of promising cures for dementia that are still undergoing clinical trials at the moment. It is also important to remember that having dementia does not mean the end of the world and most people can still live well with this condition. Most importantly, living with dementia includes keeping a set routine, repetition of information and extensive support by loved ones and caretakers.