Alzheimer’s Disease/Dementia are often used interchangeably but it is important to note that there is a difference. Dementia is an “umbrella” term that describes a wide range of symptoms (such as memory decline, difficulty with critical thinking and problem solving, changes in behavior etc) whereas Alzheimer’s Disease is a specific brain disease marked by symptoms of dementia that worsen over time. You can access ABC’s Alzheimer’s Disease FAQ here for more information.
Many people believe that Alzheimer’s Disease/Dementia is a normal part of aging, but this is NOT TRUE! While occasional forgetfulness or trouble recalling someone’s name that you haven’t seen in a while happens more frequently as we age, key attributes of Alzheimer’s Disease/Dementia such as serious memory loss, increased confusion, trouble with completing once routine tasks, a sudden lack of judgment and sound problem-solving skills as well as mood swings or personality and behavioral changes are NOT normal parts of aging.
The Alzheimer’s Association cites the 10 most popular signs of Alzheimer’s Disease/Dementia as the following:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life
- Difficulty with problem-solving
- Inability to complete once familiar tasks
- Noticeable confusion regarding time and/or place
- Struggling to understand visual images and spatial relationships
- Issues with speaking or writing
- Incapable of retracing steps, recalling details or remembering names
- Decreased or poor judgment
- Withdrawal from work or social activities
- Shifts in mood and/or personality
Noticing any of the above in yourself or recognizing these signs in others is undoubtedly very emotional, frightening and can be extremely daunting…however, it is important to know that help is available and you do not need to go through this alone! It is always recommended that you act immediately when noticing these changes in yourself or others by contacting yours/your loved one’s Primary Care Physician. In addition, the Alzheimer’s Association is a wealth of knowledge and they have a 24/7 helpline that can be reached at 800-272-3900 for immediate guidance.
There are many myths about Alzheimer’s/Dementia but you cannot believe everything you hear. Below are a few of the most popular myths and the corresponding realities when it comes to Alzheimer’s Disease:
|Alzheimer’s Disease is not fatal||Alzheimer’s Disease is heartbreaking because it destroys brain cells, impairs memory, and can cause noticeable personality changes in an individual. When you consider some fatal diseases such as various forms of cancer or neurological conditions, for instance, Alzheimer’s Disease doesn’t seem like it is on the same scale, but it is a fatal disease. However, the disease not only takes away a person’s identity but also slowly takes away a person’s ability to do normal activities like eating and swallowing which is vital to staying alive.|
|Only older people can get Alzheimer’s||Alzheimer’s Disease doesn’t discriminate based on age- even people in their 30s can get Alzheimer’s (though it is certainly less common than what we see for those who are over 65 years of age). “Early onset” is the term that is used to describe younger people (under 65 years old) who are affected by Alzheimer’s.|
|Aspartame or other artificial sweeteners can cause memory loss||Artificial sweeteners like Aspartame, Nutrasweet and Equal (to name a few) have become popular in recent years and the integrity of these products has regularly been called into question. Rumors even went so far as to link these sweeteners to diseases such as Alzheimer’s but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has performed multiple rounds of research and have been unable to substantiate the claims.|
|Flu shots can increase your risk of getting Alzheimer’s||This is another rumor that has had no scientific evidence to prove its legitimacy. In fact, several mainstream studies actually link flu shots and other vaccinations to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s Disease and overall better health.|
|There are treatments that cure Alzheimer’s Disease||While we have been able to take advantage of various medical advancements and have made considerable strides in research efforts around Alzheimer’s Disease, it is important to note that there is no cure for this condition. Medications can help treat the disease and assist in halting the progression of the symptoms from worsening but they will not cure it. The best thing one can do, in addition to taking any medications recommended and prescribed by a physician to help treat the disease, is to continue doing activities that provide mental stimulation such as social and group events, puzzles, games, playing instruments, reading etc.|
|People with Alzheimer’s have no quality of life||Absolutely not true! Alzheimer’s Disease is a difficult diagnosis for both the victim and their family and friends. However, there are many medical advancements you can take advantage of to try to keep symptoms at bay as well as care and resources are available to help those affected by Alzheimer’s remain living safely and independently while also encouraging them to be an active part of their community. Speaking of communities, each one is different but there are a variety of community programs that offer group enrichment opportunities as well as care-oriented programs that can help provide individuals with any additional care or help at home that is needed to keep living their best life!|
Keep up with the latest developments and resources on Alzheimer’s Disease by visiting the Alzheimer’s Association online here!