Dementia Action Week: Debunking Common Myths About Dementia

This week is Dementia Action Week, a yearly event aiming to decrease the stigma around dementia, while building understanding and awareness. So, in honour of Dementia Action Week, we thought we’d tackle some of the myths about dementia in Australia.

Myth: Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease Are the Same

This isn’t too far off the truth, but it’s also not correct. Dementia is an umbrella term for a group of conditions that affect two or more functions of the brain. Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia—in fact, it’s the most common form of dementia, occurring in around 70% of cases. Although the two terms refer to a similar condition, ‘dementia’ and ‘Alzheimer’s disease’ aren’t the same.

Myth: People with Dementia Can’t Remember Anything

Well, it’s true that many people with dementia do or will experience some level of memory loss. This is because the area of the brain often affected by dementia, is also related to memory. But, there are many types of dementia, including Lewy Body Disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and more. These types of dementia all present with different symptoms and vary from person to person. A person with dementia might be able to create and recall memories perfectly fine but may struggle with muscle movements. Or, they may struggle to create new memories, but can recall old memories easily. Basically, every person with dementia is different, so avoid making any assumptions about their condition.

Myth: Dementia is Inevitable and Can’t Be Slowed Down

It’s common to assume that dementia is a normal part of growing older. However, although dementia affects many Australians, the vast majority of older adults won’t develop dementia at all.

As it stands, we don’t fully understand why dementia occurs. But, researchers have identified ways to reduce the risk of developing dementia, and slow down its progression in diagnosed cases. Essentially, it comes down to looking after your heart, your body, and your mind. For your heart, quit smoking, eat a healthy diet, and keep an eye on your blood pressure. For your body, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and cut out unhealthy foods. For your mind, stay social, learn new things, engage in hobbies, and challenge yourself. Forming these healthy habits as early as possible garners the best results. But it’s never too late to make a positive lifestyle change to protect yourself from dementia.

Myth: Dementia Only Occurs in Older Adults

While dementia is most common in people over the age of 65, there is no real minimum age for developing dementia. Younger-onset, (or early-onset) dementia can occur in people as young as 30. So, although older adults may be more at risk, it’s still important to remain vigilant. Make sure to keep your mind and body healthy, and watch out for any early warning signs.

Myth: People with Dementia Can’t Live a Fulfilling Life

Many people assume that a dementia diagnosis means the end of a fulfilling life. Thankfully, that’s simply not true. People who are diagnosed with dementia—even at a young age, can go on to live a happy, independent life for years to come. In many cases, they can continue to drive, live on their own, and go about their day as normal. As the condition progresses, some lifestyle changes may be required. But support services like in home care, can minimise the impact these changes have on the life of someone with the condition.

Something to Keep in Mind

Sadly, people with dementia often face negative and demeaning treatment. People might speak slowly when it’s unnecessary, or belittle without meaning to. It’s essential to make a considered effort to understand and communicate openly with a person with dementia. Don’t make assumptions, and treat them as a person first. Dementia feels and appears different to each person with the condition, so always treat people with respect, no matter their situation.

Do you know someone living with dementia who could use a bit of extra support? Here at Simply Helping, we offer flexible home care services to older adults, people with disability, and people living with dementia. Click here to learn more about our services or click here to contact us today!

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