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Myths About Dementia

Many years ago when I developed a course to certify Home Care nurses aides  I definitely emphasized that the aging brain did not deteriorate..  It is not a given that all “old people” will develop severe brain issues. Fortunately, nowadays there is a lot better information out there about the ongoing plasticity of brains and how well they function in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and beyond. Dementia is not a normal part of aging. It is caused by a disease process.  And, not all dementia is caused by Alzheimer’s disease.  There can be reversible causes like infections, nutritional issues, medications and more. However, there are still many wrong ideas about dementia. Here are a few:

1.Dementia is  defined by memory loss.

It is normal to forget things occasionally. But, when forgetfulness impacts our daily functioning we need to pay attention. Decreasing memory is not the first sign of dementia. If someone has a lot of behavior, mood changes these can be a red flag.

2. Dementia occurs in old people.

There are different types of dementia that can show up in younger people. Sometimes even earlier than in our fifties people can get young-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

3. Behavior changes always include becoming agitated, hostile and combative.

 As with any disease, each person has a unique way of exhibiting symptoms. Sometimes a person with dementia does have a lot of confusion and fear which can show up in behavior changes.

4. Dementia totally destroys a person’s quality of life.

Someone with dementia is still able to enjoy activities and learn new things. They’re capable of adjusting to new routines and habits in the early and middle stages of the disease.  We need to remember that during the whole process of going through dementia stages these are still people we love and who can love us, laugh and cry.

5.  Dementia has no remedies.

As with many chronic diseases,  early diagnosis is critical to  getting treatment that can slow the advancement.  It is important to emphasize what the person with dementia can do and does want in their life to allow them the best quality of life they can experience. 

In some of the next blogs I will provide more information about dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and brain health in the older adult.