7 Most Common Misconceptions About Dementia

Diverse group of people surrounding a stylized brain graphic, representing the diverse impacts of dementia.

Dementia, a term encompassing a decline in cognitive function that interferes with daily life, can be a frightening prospect. Unfortunately, fear often fuels misconceptions, making it harder to understand and support those living with dementia. Many people are not aware of the term and have various misinformation regarding dementia and related conditions.

In this article, we are going to talk about the 7 most common misconceptions about dementia and what the actual reality is. Let’s start:

Myth #1: Dementia is a normal part of aging

The most obvious conception about dementia among people is that ‘dementia is a normal part of aging’, and ‘we all tend’ to experience dementia as we grow older. But this is not true. While the risk of dementia increases with age, it’s not an inevitable consequence of getting older. Many seniors live full, cognitively healthy lives. Dementia is a disease, not a natural part of aging.

Dementia is a normal part of aging

Despite having no confirmed reason why dementia happens at all, various studies have already explored the impact of various lifestyle habits that can increase the likelihood of developing dementia. And age is not a definite factor. Many people have dementia, even at mild ages.

Myth #2: Dementia and Alzheimer’s are the same thing

The second misconception about dementia is that it is confused with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). Most often, people use both terms interchangeably. Again, despite having certain relations, both terms are different.

Dementia is an umbrella term for a group of conditions causing cognitive decline. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of cases, but it’s not the only one. Other types include vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and Lewy body dementia. Each has distinct underlying causes and symptoms. Dementia can have a wide range of underlying causes, and it is not limited to Alzheimer’s disease.

Myth #3: Memory loss is the only symptom of dementia

While memory difficulties are common, dementia affects various cognitive functions. People with dementia may experience challenges with:

Memory loss is the only symptom of dementia
  • Reasoning and problem-solving: Difficulty managing finances, following recipes, or playing familiar games.
  • Communication: People with dementia may have trouble understanding or responding to speech, may repeat words or phrases, or may have difficulty with reading and writing.
  • Orientation: People with dementia may have difficulty understanding the year, month, and day, or may become confused about their surroundings.
  • Judgment and decision-making: Difficulty making safe choices or becoming easily influenced.
  • Visuospatial skills: Problems with navigating familiar routes or judging distances.

Myth #4: There’s nothing you can do about dementia

While there’s no cure yet, there are ways to manage dementia and improve quality of life. Medications can help manage some symptoms, and therapies like cognitive stimulation and music as a therapy can offer support.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet, regular exercise, and social engagement can also be beneficial. Research on potential treatments and prevention is ongoing.

Myth #5: People with dementia are violent or dangerous

This misconception can lead to social isolation for those with dementia. While some may experience behavioral changes, violence is not a defining characteristic. Often, these behaviors stem from underlying anxieties or frustrations caused by the disease. Understanding their needs and creating a calm environment can help manage such situations.

People with dementia are violent or dangerous

Myth #6: People with dementia can’t remember anything

Memory loss in dementia is a spectrum. While short-term memory is often more affected, long-term memories may remain vivid. This means they might remember things from their childhood or earlier adulthood but struggle with things that happened just

People with dementia cant remember anything

People with dementia can still experience joy, love, and connection. Engaging them in activities that connect with their past memories can be a source of comfort and stimulation. The severity of memory loss varies depending on the type and stage of dementia. It’s important to remember that dementia affects everyone differently.

Myth #7: Dementia is purely genetic

Genetics do play a role in some forms of dementia, especially early-onset types. However, it’s not a guaranteed inheritance. Certain genes can increase the risk of developing some forms of dementia, particularly early-onset forms (dementia diagnosed before age 65).

The most common genetic risk factor is a variant of the APOE gene called APOE ε4. However, having this gene doesn’t guarantee dementia, and many people with the gene never develop it.

Dementia is purely genetic

Scientists believe dementia likely results from a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental factors. It’s not a simple cause-and-effect relationship. Many other factors contribute to the risk, including lifestyle choices, health conditions, and environmental factors.

Conclusion

Understanding the complex picture empowers individuals to take control of modifiable risk factors and potentially delay or even prevent the onset of dementia.

Remember, dementia may take away some abilities, but the person with the disease is still there. With patience, understanding, and the right tools, we can help them live a life filled with meaning and connection.

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Picture of Cherie Voise

Cherie Voise

Cherie Voise, inspired by personal experiences and driven by her role as an advocate, founded Voise Foundation to improve the lives of those with dementia. As the foundation's key content creator and blog author, she draws on her deep understanding of the disease, advocating for respect, dignity, and creative therapy avenues such as VST Music© and other programs. Cherie's heartfelt writings, fueled by empathy, resonate with readers, offering insight and stirring action. Become a part of this journey and together with Cherie, let's make a meaningful impact in the world of dementia care.