Busting myths about Alzheimer’s disease
Alzheimer’s disease is universally feared – cancer is the only disease we fear more. And yet there seem to be a large number of misconceptions surrounding this condition. Let’s go over some of the most popular myths and replace them with cold, hard facts.
Myth: “Alzheimer’s is a normal part of aging”
No, it is not. While it is true the majority of Alzheimer’s patients are over 65 years old, only 1 out of 5 older people develop dementia or Alzheimer’s, while the majority only suffers from the normal memory loss due to age. Alzheimer’s related memory loss is significant and tends to make people unable to carry out their usual routines, as well as inducing changes in behavior and personality.
Myth: “Only old people can have Alzheimer’s disease”
Wrong again. About 5% of Alzheimer’s patients are in their 40s or 50s, and suffer from what is known as early onset Alzheimer’s.
If one of your grandparents suffers from this disease, and you are concerned that you are next in line, you can relax: you are not at a higher risk for Alzheimer’s. 95% of patients with this condition did not inherit it from their ancestors. The only kind of Alzheimer’s that can be passed on is the early-onset variety we just spoke about.
Myth: “Alzheimer’s disease can be cured with early detection and treatment”
Alas, this is sadly not true. As of now there is no cure or treatment that will stop or reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s. But this doesn’t mean that early diagnosis is useless: there are many therapies that can temporarily slow and alleviate symptoms, as well as supportive services that will help improve the quality of life of both the patients and their families. A timely diagnosis also means more time to plan responsibly for the future.
Myth: “Alzheimer’s disease causes a quick loss of language skills”
Mercifully this one is not true. While irreversible, Alzheimer’s is progressive and advances slowly. At the beginning a patient will show difficulty remembering names of things, but will still be able to properly communicate. The loss of speech only occurs in the advanced stages of dementia.
Myth: “Alzheimer’s patients become violent and aggressive”
Again, this is not true. Alzheimer’s affects each person differently, and adequate care and support may help ease the frustration and confusion in the Alzheimer’s patient and help them deal with them in more constructive ways.
This weekend, the country will go all out to raise awareness and collect funds for Alzheimer research. Do your part: wear purple, use the #endalz hash tag in social media, look for activities in your community where you can participate, or donate to one of the many organizations advancing Alzheimer’s research. If we all rally together we can help people who suffer from this disease to feel accepted and valuable, and hopefully we will also contribute to the discovery of a treatment, cure or prevention.