Dementia now affects around 850,000 people in the UK. However, despite the fact that dementia is set to be the 21st century’s biggest killer, there are still many myths surrounding the illness and what exactly is means for those it affects. As a dementia care provider at our dedicated Memory Lane communities, we feel it is important to share five common dementia related myths, aiming to raise awareness and dispel confusion.
1.Alzheimer's disease and dementia are the same
This is one of the most common misconceptions around dementia. Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are often considered to be the same thing; however this is definitely not the case, although it is easy to be mistaken! Dementia is an umbrella term for a varied set of symptoms, meaning Alzheimer’s disease is a very specific form of dementia.
2. People living with dementia don't understand what's happening around them
This is another frequent myth related to dementia. Many people believe that because those living with dementia struggle to communicate effectively, it means that they are not aware of what is happening around them. However, the part of the brain which deals with communication is separate to the area which deals with awareness. This means that, sadly, most do have thoughts to communicate although they struggle to relay these.
3. You should correct a person living with dementia when they make a verbal mistake
Those living with dementia will make mistakes; perhaps they might call you by the wrong name or experience a case of mistaken identity when telling a story about their day. Caring for someone living with dementia requires a lot of patience, but it’s recommended that you don’t correct the verbal mistakes they make. Correcting mistakes can actually create more confusion and feelings of depression. Instead be encouraging and support their socialising skills by asking engaging questions.
4. Dementia is not fatal
As mentioned above, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are not one in the same. As dementia is an umbrella term, describing a number of diseases with certain symptoms, it is these diseases which can prove to be fatal. For example, Alzheimer’s disease causes progressive brain damage, not just memory loss, which is degenerative.
5. Only elderly people can get dementia
Many people are led to believe that only older people are affected by dementia; however this is not the case. While it is much less common, young onset dementia affects those of working age, usually between 30 and 65 years old. It is estimated that around 42,000 people are living with early onset dementia in the UK, representing around 5% of the total amount of those affected by the illness in the UK. However, these figures could be higher due to the difficulties diagnosing the illness, especially in young people.