Myths and Facts About Dementia
What’s true about dementia, and what’s just a myth? Test what you know.
Myth: If an older adult has memory problems, he or she has dementia.
Fact: Many people have mild memory issues as they age. In some cases, medications or illness can cause short-term cognitive problems. But memory loss along with confusion, trouble doing daily tasks, and other symptoms can point to dementia. Dementia must be diagnosed by a health care provider through a physical exam, tests, and other tools.
Myth: Alzheimer’s disease is the same as dementia.
Fact: Alzheimer’s disease is one of many conditions that cause dementia. It’s the most common cause of dementia. But dementia can also be caused by many other things. These include strokes, abnormal proteins in the brain, Huntington disease, multiple sclerosis, and metabolic problems.
Myth: Dementia is a natural part of aging.
Fact: Dementia happens because of brain damage from disease or other health problems. It is not a natural part of aging.
Myth: Dementia can be cured if you catch it early enough.
Fact: Some causes of dementia symptoms, such as a brain tumor, can be treated and the symptoms may go away. But in most cases, dementia is a progressive brain disease that can’t be cured. Some medications can lessen certain symptoms for a period of time. But the disease is not stopped by medications.
Myth: People with dementia don’t realize they have it.
Fact: The brain damage that leads to dementia may cause people to be unaware of their symptoms. However, people with dementia can often be aware and feel frustrated about their disease and symptoms. They can be upset about their confusion and memory loss. They can be angry about the lack of control over their life.
Myth: The person with dementia is just being difficult.
Fact: Dementia comes with a range of problem behaviors that are caused by damage to the brain. Aggression, restlessness, repeating words or actions, and other behaviors are common in people with dementia. And some problem behaviors can be caused by other issues. Untreated pain, infection, lack of sleep, poor nutrition, and other issues can cause behavior symptoms in a person with dementia. And the person may have lost the ability to say what is wrong.
Myth: You don’t need to think about care services and financial planning now. That’s down the road.
Fact: The person with dementia should make decisions and sign legal documents while he or she is able. Put plans in place as soon as possible for medical wishes, living arrangements, and financial needs. If there is no plan in place before a person is unable to make decisions, the court system may pick a guardian or conservator. This person then has the authority to make decisions about the ill person’s finances and medical care.