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  • Carolina M. Reid

Dementia Myths Debunked

The term dementia is often thrown around casually, meaning everything from Alzheimer's disease, momentary forgetfulness in old age to mental illness. In addition to the common misuse of the word, a lot of misinformation about dementia can be found circulating throughout popular culture. Below are some common myths debunked.



Myth #1: Dementia is incurable


This is a common misconception, but dementia itself is not an incurable disease. It is a response to something else that is happening in the body that results in cognitive decline. To call it a disease is like calling loss of muscle tone a disease. It's a symptom. It's just that things that happen where we cannot see them, between our ears, are mysterious and somewhat taboo. 


Dementia is a broad term that describes a decline in mental ability that can ultimately interfere with daily life. [1]There are many different forms of dementia and some are temporary and some are permanent. The most common types of dementia are: Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy body dementia that can be related to Parkinson's. Alzheimer’s disease is thought to account for 60 to 80 percent of all cognitive decline. 


Common, visible symptoms of dementia are memory loss, confusion, impaired reasoning, mood changes like becoming aggressive or depressed, trouble remembering words, events or people and a decline in personal hygiene.[3] 


Myth #2: Isn’t memory loss a normal part of aging?


Nope! While some memory loss is to be expected with age (everyone forgets where their keys are some of the time!) Your neurons are built for life. And you have the ability to continually grow and learn new things well into old age. Symptoms of dementia include not remembering recent events, forgetting family members and personality changes [4]. Or doing odd things like throwing away valuable items compulsively, or putting things where they do not go, like your wallet in the refrigerator. 


In the early stages of dementia, it can be extremely hard to differentiate between what is normal and what should be a cause for concern.


At WholeMind we have several tests that will put you on clear footing as to what is going on. For a quick online game to try for memory: Click here to find one we like and have tested.


Myth #3: Dementia isn't that big of an issue.   


False! Dementia is a rapidly escalating problem and effects everyone in society. According to the World Health Organization, "47 million people have been diagnosed dementia, with nearly 60% living in low- and middle-income countries."[5] This number is expected to sky-rocket in the future with a predicted 132 million people living with dementia in 2050. And dementia doesn't just effect those who suffer from it—the Alzheimer's Association reports that the costs of dementia on a nation will soar to over $1.1 trillion in 2050. [6] Dementia effects everyone, which is why most research is focusing on preventing the onset of dementia. In a 2011 study led by Walter Rocca and conducted through the Mayo Clinic and Harvard University, it was discovered that "if interventions could delay disease onset or progression by as little as 1 year, nearly 9.2 million fewer AD [Alzheimer's disease] patients would be expected by the year 2050." [7] Understanding how to prevent and possibly cure dementia is crucial. 


These numbers are actually higher and it is estimated that as many and three times as many people than that walk around with some form of pre-demential or early stages of dementia without knowing they do. 


Myth #4: You can't die from dementia. 


Dementia itself is not fatal, but the diseases associated with dementia are fatal. Diseases like Alzheimer's or Parkinson's cause progressive brain damage that ultimately becomes fatal. In fact, 1in 3 seniors will die from Alzheimer's or another form of dementia according to a 2013 study. [8] This study also noted that in the early 2000's the death rate from dementia rose 68%. 


Myth #5: Dementia only affects the elderly.


False! The various forms of dementia usually affect the elderly but can also develop in people under the age of 65. Typically, these forms of dementia are genetically inherited, or it can be caused by a learning disability like Downs Syndrome, or it could be brought on by a long history of chronic drug and alcohol abuse.  Delirium which is the medical term for the induced stupor or slumber that certain drugs, sleeping pills, or even medical anesthesia create has been linked to a significantly increased incidence of Alzheimers dementia. 


Myth #6: There is nothing to do to prevent dementia.


False! There are a number of ways to reduce the risk of developing dementia. Some of these include reducing chronic stress, meditating, limit sugar intake, adding an Omega-3 supplement, learning a new language or engaging in new social activities. In fact, there are increasing quantities of studies done in which they have done autopsies of brains of people who should have had dementia but they did not get it because of the engaged, mindful, lifestyles they led. So find out more with us! 


Myth #7: You need to correct a person suffering from dementia when they say something ‘wrong.’


While it can be hard and painful to listen to a loved one discuss people they think are still alive, an event that never happened, or repeat the same story again and again, correcting their mistake is not helpful and can be extremely detrimental to their mental health. Constant corrections can lead to future confusion, combativeness, depression and serves as reminder that there is something wrong with them. A person suffering from dementia has lost their ability to think correctly, and can't logically understand their mistake. They can't re-enter the 'real' world so we have to go into theirs. 


Myth #8: People suffering from dementia won’t remember if you visit or not, so why bother visiting at all.


False! Even those suffering from late stage dementia can still interact with friends and family. It is extremely beneficial to their mental health to interact with people that can trigger emotional connections. While the person suffering from dementia may not be able to fully understand who is visiting, singing familiar songs, reading aloud familiar books or even watching familiar television shows will trigger an emotional response associated with those deeply stored memories, oftentimes 'awakening' the person with dementia. It is so helpful and necessary to continue to visit your loved one with dementia, even if the visits seem fruitless. Emotional memory, touch and physical memory exists even if logical memory has subsided.  And these interactions will calm the mind and help her to do much better! 


[1] http://www.alz.org/what-is-dementia.asp

[2] http://www.alz.org/dementia/types-of-dementia.asp

[3] http://www.alz.org/what-is-dementia.asp

[4] http://www.alzheimer.ca/en/About-dementia/What-is-dementia/Normal-aging-vs-dementia

[5] http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs362/en/

[6] http://www.alz.org/facts/

[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3026476/

[8] https://www.alz.org/news_and_events_facts_and_figures_report.asp

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