There are millions of people worldwide who are living with dementia, yet there are a lot of misconceptions and misunderstanding about what the word “dementia” actually means. It can be a lot to unpack—so we’ve put together some common myths and realities about dementia to help you better understand those around you who are living with the disease.
MYTH: There is only one type of dementia.
REALITY: While Alzheimer’s is the most well-known form of dementia, there are over 120 different types, including Vascular, Lewy Body, and Frontotemporal.
MYTH: Dementia is a normal part of aging.
REALITY: Dementia is much more common in older adults, but it is not considered a “normal” part of aging. It is true that as we get older, we may naturally get less mentally agile, but that does not necessarily equate to dementia.
MYTH: Dementia only affects memory.
REALITY: Dementia can affect memory, language and communication, ability to focus, reasoning and judgment, vision, and in the later stages, movement.
MYTH: People with dementia don’t know what’s going on around them.
REALITY: Although it is true that people living with dementia struggle to track conversations, they can still read nonverbal communication. They are often sensitive to their environment, and sometimes even hypersensitive to their surroundings.
MYTH: Dementia only affects the elderly.
REALITY: As a progressive, generative disease, dementia is much more common in those 65+, but it can affect those as young as 30.
MYTH: Those living with dementia have a low-quality life.REALITY: As more and more research is done, better approaches to care are being discovered to help those with dementia live a relatively high quality of life. One such approach is to engage the person with music, dancing, or reminiscing. Treating those with dementia with understanding, compassion, and empathy goes a long way.
MYTH: Dementia is always genetic.
REALITY: While having parents with dementia can make you more prone to the disease, it is not guaranteed, and many offspring of those living with brain change age unaffected.
MYTH: Dementia affects all memories.
REALITY: Dementia mainly affects shorter-term memories. People living with dementia can often recall and/or relive memories from their childhood and early adulthood. When this happens, it’s important to meet them where their brain is at this moment.
A person living with dementia is often living in the moment. As a caregiver, loved one, or friend, we have an opportunity to be with them in their moments, creating a place of joy, peace, comfort, and security.