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Dementia Myths Debunked

Our body of knowledge about the various dementias is expanding by leaps and bounds, almost on a daily basis.  Even so, there are still a lot of misunderstandings out there, held both by the general public and by professionals, with regard to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.  This article is an effort to address some of those misconceptions, and to provide a more complete understanding of the diseases involved.

MYTH:  Alzheimer’s disease is inherited.  If my mother/father/brother/etc. has it, then that means I will get it, too.

FACT:  A very small percentage (5-10%) of Alzheimer’s cases are due to genetic causes.  The vast majority of cases are due to other causes.

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MYTH:  Only old people get Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

FACT:  Although dementia is found more frequently in the elderly, it is not unique to that population.  People as young as 40, or even younger, have been known to develop it.

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MYTH:  Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia can be cured.

FACT:  There has been considerable research toward this end in recent years, and advances have been made in helping people to manage their symptoms and to slow down the progression of the disease.  But, unfortunately, there has been no definitive cure discovered for any of the diseases causing dementia.

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MYTH:  If you are having problems with your memory, that means you have Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia.

FACT:  Some memory loss is to be expected as we age, and other factors (stress, illness, etc.) can also cause temporary lapses in memory.  But this does not automatically mean there is any disease process at work.  If the memory loss is causing difficulty with your ability to function, and if you are also having problems with judgment or with communication, then you may have a valid concern and should consult your doctor.

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MYTH:  Aluminum causes Alzheimer’s disease.

FACT:  There has been no research to support this with any reliability.

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MYTH:  Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia can be prevented.

FACT:  There are some lifestyle choices that can decrease a person’s risk of developing dementia (diet, exercise, keeping your brain active, etc.).  But there is no currently known method for eliminating all risk for developing diseases causing dementia.

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MYTH:  Vitamins and supplements, as well as memory boosters, can prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

FACT:  There is currently no reliable research to indicate that this is true.  Research is on-going, however.

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MYTH:  If I am diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, my life is over.

FACT:  With early diagnosis, and use of medications and other available forms of support, it is quite possible for a person with dementia to live an active, meaningful life for quite some time.

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MYTH:  A person with dementia loses his sense of self.

FACT:  Research has actually shown that persons, even in the latter stages of dementia, retain many aspects of their individuality.  This is reflected through their actions and mannerisms.

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MYTH:  People with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are violent and aggressive.

FACT:  While some persons with dementia do become aggressive at times, many do not.  Often these behaviors can be either prevented altogether, or managed comfortably, with proper care and support.

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MYTH:  People with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia don’t know what’s going on around them.

FACT:  Most people with dementia do understand quite well what is going on around them.  As the disease progresses, the person’s ability to perceive the environment does change to some extent, but with support should be able to retain his individuality and to function quite well.

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MYTH:  Persons with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are no longer able to participate in making decisions about their own care.

FACT:  People with dementia can, and should, be allowed to participate in decision-making with regard to their care — especially in the early stages of the disease.  They have repeatedly shown a keen insight into what it is like to have such a disease, and to know what is needed to help them function better, and to have a richer quality of life.  There will eventually come a point when they are no longer able to be a part of this process, but this usually happens relatively late in the disease.

(This page was inspired by information found at Living With Dementia — Resources for Living Well, an excellent site developed as a collective project by professionals as well as persons with dementia and their care partners.  I would highly recommend visiting this site for more information.)

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  1. November 11, 2012 at 7:17 PM

    This is a great list of myths and responses… thanks for sharing it.
    At some stage I’ll remember to reblog it on mine!

    • November 11, 2012 at 9:10 PM

      Feel free. I’ve seen similar lists around the web. It’s always good to clear up misinformation.

  2. Shirley Sigmund
    November 12, 2012 at 1:38 AM

    Thank you very much for this debunking article, and for citing the website that inspired the content of your information. Here’s hoping you are feeling better each day- my thoughts are with you and I wish for your utmost recovery.

    • November 12, 2012 at 8:17 AM

      Thanks very much. Tomorrow I will begin that strange journey called chemotherapy; hopefully it won’t be too difficult.

  3. Francisco Philmon
    November 12, 2012 at 9:06 AM

    Just wish to say your article is as amazing. The clarity in your post is simply cool and i can assume you’re an expert on this subject. Well with your permission let me to grab your RSS feed to keep up to date with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please continue the enjoyable work.

  4. Patrick Fisher
    November 14, 2012 at 2:11 PM

    Reblogged this on Perspectives and commented:
    Useful information on Dementia myths.

  1. November 14, 2012 at 6:39 PM

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