Did you know that September is World Alzheimer’s Awareness Month? Today we will debunk some of the common misconceptions and ideas around Alzheimer’s and dementia to ensure that everyone is better informed and can distinguish fact from fiction.

Myth 1: Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is the same thing.

This isn’t accurate. Alzheimer’s disease is just a kind of dementia that accounts for 60–80% of all dementia cases. The National Institute on Aging defines dementia as “a loss of cognitive functioning — thinking, remembering, and reasoning — and behavioural abilities to the point where it interferes with a person’s everyday life and activities.”

Because the majority of people do not comprehend dementia, it is frequently mistaken with Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is a kind of dementia. Consider dementia to be an umbrella that covers a variety of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Vascular Dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that consists of a set of cognitive and social symptoms that impair everyday living. Even though dementias share some features, each kind has its own underlying pathology.

Myth 2: People who often forget things are likely to suffer from memory loss or dementia.

Although memory loss is a common early symptom of dementia, it does not always indicate the onset of the disease. Human memory is fickle, and we all forget things from time to time. If memory loss is interfering with daily living, however, it is essential to consult a doctor.

Alzheimer’s disease is defined by frequent forgetting and the inability to recollect that lost information later. Occasional forgetfulness is not the same as Alzheimer’s disease, characterised by systematic forgetting and the inability to recall those forgotten details later. Difficulty with familiar activities, communication issues, confusion, poor judgment, and difficulty with abstract thinking are all symptoms of the illness.

Myth 3: Dementia is purely genetic

In other words, we’re referring to the belief that if a family member has been diagnosed with dementia, the individual is almost certain to get dementia later in life. This isn’t correct.

Although certain kinds of dementia have a hereditary component, the majority of instances do not have a significant genetic relationship. Age, rather than hereditary characteristics, is the most major risk factor for dementia. However, if a parent or grandmother acquired Alzheimer’s disease before the age of 65, the likelihood of it being passed down genetically is greater.

Early-onset Alzheimer’s, on the other hand, is quite uncommon. It happens in a tiny percentage of all Alzheimer’s cases. Because Alzheimer’s disease accounts for the majority of dementia cases, most dementia cases are not inherited.

Myth 4: Dementia only impacts older people

On the other hand, dementia is NOT a normal component of the ageing process. Dementia is widespread among the elderly, but it is not something that happens naturally as you get older. Of course, we all experience a little brain fog as we get older, but it’s not normal to have severe memory problems like those seen in dementia patients.

Another myth regarding dementia is that it exclusively affects the elderly. This is far from the case. As I previously stated, dementia is more frequent in the elderly, although it may affect anyone at any age. Because dementia is not caused by ageing, it can affect people in their 30s and 40s. Dementia is a common side effect of many brain traumas, regardless of age.

Myth 5: Alzheimer’s is preventable

We hear a lot of advice on how to keep our brains healthy, but there is no therapy or approach that will ensure that Alzheimer’s disease will not develop. The efficacy of treatments such as vitamins E, B, C, and D, ginkgo Biloba, folate, and selenium is still being studied, although the results are often contradictory.

However, it is worthwhile to take lifestyle measures that may help lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease or postpone its development, such as:

  • Including fresh fruits and vegetables, seafood, and nuts in one’s diet.
  • Puzzles, hobbies, and studying are all great ways to keep your mind active.
  • Maintaining healthy blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels.
  • Keeping your brain safe.
  • Maintaining a social life.
  • Exercising on a regular basis.
  • Avoiding vices such as smoking, drug use, and alcohol use.

These techniques are also good for cardiovascular health, which may play a role in Alzheimer’s disease progression. You can read more about how to prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia here.

Myth 6: People with dementia are unresponsive

Symptoms can be misleading; just because individuals can’t speak effectively or become confused doesn’t imply they aren’t aware of their surroundings. Emotions and sentiments are still very much there even when memory and ability change. Everyone needs a sense of belonging and social connection, as well as a sense of freedom and delight. People respond to touch and find solace in soothing voices and music, even in the latter stages of the disease. You can read more about communicating with dementia patients here.

Myth 7: All people with dementia become aggressive

While Alzheimer’s illness can induce personality changes, not everyone becomes aggressive or violent. Wandering, restlessness, mistrust, and repeated acts are all prevalent behaviours. For those with Alzheimer’s disease, dealing with memory loss and confusion may be scary and frustrating. Caregivers and loved ones may help by understanding certain essential tactics, such as adjusting a person’s environment, sticking to a steady routine, and learning how to communicate more effectively. You can read more about dealing with difficult behaviour here.

Myth 8: Dementia can’t be fatal

Dementia, unfortunately, may be deadly. Dementia is likely to be a more prevalent cause of mortality than previously assumed. People are concerned about dementia, especially as they become older, and this is understandable in many respects. However, it is critical to combat disinformation that may heighten fears and stigma.

For the time being, scientists are working nonstop to find new ways to treat and prevent dementia. Hopefully, research will minimise the effect of dementia and, as a result, the dread connected with the illness in the future.

Myth 9: You can’t live a fulfilling life with dementia

Many people who have been diagnosed with dementia live busy, fulfilling lives. Some individuals worry that if they are diagnosed with dementia, they will no longer be able to walk alone and will be forced to quit driving their car. True, these changes may occur over time as the illness worsens, but in mild cases of dementia, no modifications may be required. Changes in how a person lives their life are probable as dementia progresses, but this does not rule out the possibility of a meaningful existence.

Myth 10: There’s no hope for someone with Alzheimer’s

Researchers are working to improve the disease’s detection, test novel therapies, and possibly produce a vaccine. Experts are still learning more about Alzheimer’s disease, and there are therapies and techniques that can help control symptoms and enhance the quality of life. A diagnosis does not imply a loss of independence, and health professionals emphasise the need of focusing on what patients can achieve. If you or someone you know is impacted, speak with your doctor and seek out community services.