There are many myths surrounding dementia, some of which you will find here. Once you understand the myths, you’ll be prepared to face the reality of dementia.
MYTH: Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are the same thing.
Reality: Dementia is not a specific disease; rather, it is an overall term for a set of symptoms that are caused by disorders affecting the brain. There are many different causes of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, strokes (causing vascular dementia), Lewy body disease and Pick’s disease (causing Frontotemporal dementia).
MYTH: Dementia only affects older people.
Reality:While age is the biggest risk factor and most people with dementia are over the age of 65, it can affect people in their 50s, 40s and even 30s. Most people do not develop dementia as they age; dementia is not a normal part of aging.
MYTH: Memory loss means dementia.
Reality: People naturally forget things from time to time. When memory loss affects day-to-day functions, 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 and ability should be checked by a doctor.
MYTH: All people who have dementia become violent and aggressive.
Reality: Dementia affects each person differently and 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 any upsetting situations for bot 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 touch or listening to music. All persons with dementia have the right to be treated with respect.
MYTH: A diagnosis with dementia means life is over.
Reality: It’s possible to live well with dementia for a good period of time. Dementia is progressive - meaning the symptoms will gradually get worse - but progression is different for each individual, and a diagnosis doesn’t mean the person will fast-forward to the later stages overnight. Many people with dementia live meaningful, active lives for a number of years. Eating a heart-healthy diet, exercising regularly, staying socially connected and doing things that challenge your brain can help slow the disease progression.
Source: Alzheimer Society, Alzheimer’s Awareness Month 2020 Campaign Toolkit
- Shepherd’s Care Foundation offers accommodations, care services and programming for people living with dementia. Learn more.
- A support group for those impacted by a loved one with Alzheimer’s/dementia is hosted regularly at our Millwoods Campus. For more information, contact Stephanie Dziedzic, Intake Coordinator at Alzheimer Society of AB& NWT, at FirstLinkEdmonton@alzheimer.ab.ca.