Today in the UK there are an estimated 850,000 people living with dementia. Yet the condition is shrouded in myth and misconceptions.
Whether you are living with dementia, seeking dementia care options, or simply interested in learning about the topic, here are 7 of the common myths about dementia debunked, and the truth behind them.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s are the same
It is a common misconception that dementia and Alzheimer’s are the same.
Dementia is not a specific disease but rather a syndrome. It is an umbrella term describing a number of diseases which lead to the symptoms of dementia. For example, someone living with Alzheimer’s disease develops symptoms of dementia as a result.
Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia. People diagnosed with Alzheimer’s often have a reduction of a chemical called acetylcholine, which carries information to and from the brain.
Common symptoms of Alzheimer’s can include:
Short term memory loss
Lack of concentration
Poor decision making
Difficulty problem solving
Slow, confused or repetitive speech
Dementia only affects older adults
Without a doubt, age is the most common risk factor for dementia. It is estimated that 2 in 100 people aged between 65 and 69 have dementia in the UK, and this figure rises to 1 in 5 for those aged between 85 and 89, but it is not only the elderly who are at risk.
Contrary to popular myth, dementia can affect younger adults in rare cases. While early onset Alzheimer’s has been known to occur in people as young as 30, dementia can also be the result of brain damage due to a head injury, stroke, infection, or alcohol abuse.
Our Agincare Enable service supports younger adults with a range of complex needs. The integrated pathway of services includes day support, community outreach, respite and supported living.
Memory loss always signifies dementia
A decline in memory is a normal part of aging. Although memory loss can be an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease, it is not enough alone to diagnose someone with dementia.
In fact, memory loss is not a common symptom for many types of dementia at all. Early frontotemporal dementia (FTD) for example, causes a change in mood and personality, language difficulties, and obsessive behaviour.
Dementia is not always identifiable by the loss of certain memories and, as a result, a diagnosis relies on multiple symptoms being present.
Dementia is untreatable and cannot be slowed down
While there is no cure for dementia, early symptoms can be managed through a combination of lifestyle changes and medication. By staying active you can reduce the impact and severity of some dementia symptoms such as memory loss. This is why Agincare care homes have activities co-ordinators such as Jacqueline Nash:
“It’s very important to have activities… it brings people’s memories alive”
– Jacqueline Ash, Lansdowne Hill activities co-ordinator
Alzheimer’s Research UK reports that, based on contributing factors that can lead to dementia, one third of a person’s risk of developing the syndrome may be due to modifiable lifestyle factors.
You can manage or reduce your risk of dementia by:
Drinking less alcohol
Being physically active
Exercising your mind
An early diagnosis is vital for effective treatment and an extended quality of life and so the best method of preventing or slowing down the symptoms of dementia is to take control of your health.
Dementia is inherited
Another misconception about dementia is that if a family member has the syndrome they too will develop it later in life. But this is not always the case.
Although there are genetic components in some forms of dementia, other significant risk factors include age, medical history and lifestyle. Where genetics do play a part, its role can vary considerably. For example, genes have a more significant impact in the development of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) than they do for vascular dementia.
Our genes are responsible for building and maintaining our bodies, but the majority of an individual’s physical characteristics and chance of developing diseases, depends on other factors such as age and lifestyle.
People with dementia do not know what is going on
It is a common myth about dementia that, because someone living with the syndrome may struggle to communicate, they do not understand what is going on around them. This is not the case.
The part of the brain responsible for communication is different from that which deals with awareness. A person living with dementia may have difficult expressing ideas or feelings, but this does not mean that they do not have them.
When caring for someone living with dementia, patience is key. It is important to take time observing patterns in their behaviour in order to understand how they are feeling. Be mindful that although communication is difficult, they are still individuals with specific likes and dislikes.
Dementia signals the end of meaningful life
Receiving a dementia diagnosis can be a traumatic and frightening experience. It may seem like the end of your freedoms, such as driving or going out alone. While it is true that, as the condition progresses, changes will need to be made, these may not be required for some time and can begin at home.
Should there become a need for specialist support, various care options are available to people living with dementia. These include live-in care, home care, and care homes. Whatever support is needed, the aim of care should not be to remove your freedoms but to assist you in living the life you want to.
Our Dementia Care
Life doesn’t end with a dementia diagnosis. But living, or caring for someone, with dementia can be daunting.
Agincare is here to help.
We offer three types of care for people living with dementia:
Every individual’s experience of dementia is unique, and that’s why Agincare services are focused on providing personalised support. Our care staff take time to understand the individual’s life story, their strengths, capabilities and wishes, before tailoring our dementia care to them.
Call us now on 01305443115 to talk to our team about how we can support you or a family member with personalised care.