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Living with Dementia: 7 Dementia Facts that Dispel Myths

7 Dementia Facts that Dispel Myths

There are many myths surrounding dementia that can obscure our understanding of the issues facing our loved ones who suffer from dementia diseases, such as Alzheimer’s Disease. Here are a few to ponder…

MYTH #1 Dementia is a normal occurrence in aging.

FACT: Dementia is a degenerative brain disease that mainly affects older adults, and is not a normal part of aging. If it were true, then everyone over the age of 65 would have it! Many adults advance into their 80s and 90s without much memory decline.

MYTH #2 Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that is inherited.

FACT: Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. While genetics are cited in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, it is likely that it is only one factor that plays a role. Lifestyle and environmental factors also contribute to development of the disease. There does seem to be a strong genetic link with “younger onset” Alzheimer’s disease (those who develop the disease before age 60). Only about five percent of all adults with Alzheimer’s disease have younger onset of the condition.

MYTH #3 There is nothing I can do to lower my risk of dementia.

FACT: While research is still looking at lifestyle and the risk of developing dementia, it seems that regular exercise and healthy nutrition lower the odds. Essentially what is good for the heart is good for the brain! In addition, staying socially active and engaging in “brain fitness,” such as completing crossword puzzles, tai chi, reading, and learning new skills, may be important in reducing the risk or at least delaying the onset of dementia.

MYTH # 4 Once you have dementia there is nothing you can do.

FACT: Dementia is a progressive disease, meaning it continues to get worse the longer one has it. However, every person’s experience with dementia is different and it is very important to be accurately assessed by a medical professional early in the course of the disease. There are treatments, if started early, that help with some of the more troubling symptoms of dementia.

MYTH #5 People with dementia don’t know what they want, or cannot communicate what they want.

FACT: Adults living with dementia usually DO know what they want, however, the region of the brain that regulates communication, including language, can be affected by the disease. Therefore, patience becomes very important when helping adults living with dementia.

MYTH #6 I should correct someone with dementia when they say something that can’t be true.

FACT: Research indicates that constant correction of an adults living with dementia can lead to depression, aggressiveness, or further confusion. Research has shown that validation therapy (acceptance of the reality and personal truth of another's experience) is more effective in maintaining positive emotions. Validation therapy uses communication strategies to encourage people with dementia by accepting their reality. For example, if an adult living with dementia states that they had breakfast with someone that has passed away, you may wish to encourage them to tell you about the breakfast – what they had, how they enjoyed it, etc.

MYTH #7 People with dementia can't function, can't have a quality of life, and can't enjoy activities.

Because Alzheimer’s disease progresses slowly, adults living with the disease can still live meaningful, active lives. Unfortunately, many people with the disease suffer more from the stigma associated with having Alzheimer’s, than the actual disease itself. Adults in the earlier stages often benefit from community-based support groups and social engagement programs, such as Memory Cafes, that bring together those likely affected in a non-judgmental, relaxed setting.

Memory Care at Assisted Living at NewBridge on the Charles 

NewBridge on the Charles offers the Gilda and Alfred A. Slifka Memory Care Assisted Living Residences to seniors with early stage and mid-stage Alzheimer's Disease and/or a related dementia. The Memory Care Assisted Living Residences at NewBridge on the Charles provides a personalized and meaningful assisted living experience for residents based on the history, preferences and goals of each individual. Short-term stays now available. 

Learn more about Memory Care at NewBridge

Make an appointment for Memory Disorders Testing

Elaine Abrams, MPH, RN, CHES's picture

About the Blogger

Program Manager, Alzheimer’s & Dementia Care at Hebrew Senior Life until June 2015

Elaine Abrams, MPH, RN, CHES, has more than 25 years of nursing, public health, and health education experience. Her areas of expertise include community health assessment, program development and management, and health communications. A graduate of University of Connecticut Graduate Program in Public Health, Elaine has held several leadership roles including President-elect at the Connecticut Public Health Association, the state affiliate of the American Public Health Association, where she also served for several years on the Board of Directors. 

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My mom has Alzheimer's and my family is talking to her about their problems so that she can resolve it for them. I know the answer to my question, but just need clarification. I have told them that they are not to talk to my mom about anything work related, etc. She's not capable of dealing with any problems and that only adds to her confusion and disorientation. Can you please confirm this for me and give me some advice as to why they shouldn't be talking to her about their personal issues and what it causes her. Thank you so much!
Hi Ms. Martinez, please check your email for resources from Hebrew SeniorLife. Thanks! -Erica, Hebrew SeniorLife Social Media Team

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