Common misconceptions about dementia and Alzheimer’s explained – as report shows need for more research

21st September 2018 marks World Alzheimer's Day, in the middle of World Alzheimer's Month - an important date held in order to raise awareness of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

And recently, a new report from Alzheimer’s Disease International has suggested that far more research is needed into the topic, in order to better understand how to care for people with the disease, and how we might be able to cure and prevent it.

Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Society, has shared their thoughts on the news, agreeing that more understanding is much needed.

He said, “We welcome this report from Alzheimer’s Disease International shining a spotlight on the heightened need for greater investment in dementia research.

“Of the top ten causes of death, dementia is the only one that we can’t cure, prevent or even slow down and too many people face it alone – day in, day out we hear stories from those affected which highlight the urgent need for improved diagnosis and more research.

“It is only through research that we can understand what causes dementia, develop effective treatments, improve care – and, ultimately, find a cure.”

But it’s clear that one other thing is also needed when it comes to dementia – a better understanding of the disease, and how it works and comes about.

There are plenty of misconceptions and false truths surrounding Alzheimer’s, the most common form of the brain disease, and other forms of dementia. But the Alzheimer’s Society, and other dementia groups, have taken steps to bust the inaccuracies and mistruths around these ideas.

So here, some of the most common Alzheimer’s myths are explained…

World Alzheimer's Day

Myth: Dementia is a natural part of ageing

Not true. The Alzheimer’s Society have explained that some memory problems, such as forgetting someone’s name, can be a perfectly natural part of getting older. But if that, added to the other symptoms of the disease, such as changes in your mood or behaviour, forgetting very significant events, and an inability to concentrate on anything, that suggests someone may have dementia.

Plus, dementia doesn’t only affect older people. The charity reports that over 40,000 people under 65 in the UK have dementia.

Myth: People can’t live well with dementia

There is actually a huge range of support and resources out there that can help people diagnosed with dementia to live as best a life as they can, while they are going through the illness.

While many benefit from taking part in social activites and getting outside, others can find support in reflecting on and remembering events in their past, either through videos or pictures. This can often give the person comfort.

Making sure to stimulate your brain is also an important part of helping yourself to live well with dementia. People with the disease should complete puzzles, crosswords, or brain training exercises, to help themselves.

Myth: You should correct people with dementia’s mistakes

If someone with dementia calls someone by the wrong name, remembers something incorrectly, or tells you a story that’s not quite right, it’s generally better not to correct them, or try and make them understand the version of events you know to be true.

People with dementia can often find this a lot more stressful, with the recognition that their memory has lapsed. Often, the best course of action is to speak lovingly and encourage the person with dementia, and make their life as easy as possible.

MORE: Ways you can live well with dementia

Myth: There’s nothing you can do to help reduce your dementia risk

While there is no cure nor method of prevention for dementia, there are things you can do to help reduce your risk. Eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and maintaining a low blood pressure can all lower your risk of getting dementia.

However, it’s important to note that dementia can also be brought on by things we can’t control, such as our family history of the disease. But if your mother, father, or grandparents had the disease, it certainly doesn’t mean you are guaranteed to get it too.

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