Dementia Myth Busting

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On March 27th, Innovations in Aging Collaborative joined Dementia Friendly America in their efforts to make America a safer place for people with Dementia. Colorado Springs is now considered a Dementia Friendly city and IIAC is working hard to improve our city for those experiencing dementia. In society there is often a cloud of confusion and myth surrounding Dementia. To become more Dementia Friendly, it’s important we educate ourselves and our community about Dementia. To do this, we need to define what dementia is and debunk some of the common myths about it.

Dementia is defined by the Mayo Clinic as, “a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking and social abilities severely enough to interfere with your daily life. It isn’t a specific disease, but several different diseases may cause dementia”.

Myth: Dementia is the same thing as Alzheimer’s Disease.
This is false. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. Alzheimer’s is caused by plaques which are buildups of protein, and tangles which are tangled bundles of protein in the brain. These plaques and tangles can cause memory loss which contributes to dementia.

Myth: Dementia is a normal part of aging
Dementia is not a normal part of aging. Many older adults will experience some minor memory issues such as temporarily forgetting an event or the name of an acquaintance but eventually recalling it. Persons experiencing Dementia on the other hand may not remember the name of a relative or what season it is. Some memory loss is normal for aging adults, but when it interferes with their quality of life or ability to function it could be considered Dementia.

Myth: Only seniors can experience Dementia
Early onset dementia affects people under 65 years old. 5% of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease experience early onset. Although it is a small percent, it is a significant group of people that are experiencing symptoms of dementia as early as their late thirties.

Myth: If your parent has dementia, you will have Dementia
There are different types of Dementia and the majority of them are not hereditary and will not be passed down to children or grandchildren.

Myth: You cannot do anything to prevent getting Dementia
This is false, there are multiple lifestyle changes that can aid in keeping you healthy later in life. Through research and clinical trials, The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found three practices that can prolong Dementia: Increased physical activity, blood pressure management for those with hypertension, and cognitive training.

Myth: People with Dementia need to be treated like children
This is an especially harmful myth. There is a phenomenon called ‘elderspeak’, which is a term used to describe how younger people talk to elders. Elderspeak often has a high-pitched tone and the use of words like ‘sweetie’ and ‘honey’. Elderspeak can make seniors feel disrespected and degraded. Studies have shown that elderspeak is correlated with an increase of challenging behaviors such as refusing care.

These myths are commonly held to be true in our community. As we learn more about Dementia it is important that we all do our part to educate each other. The more we know, the more we can support those living with dementia and their caretakers.
To learn more about Dementia and Dementia Friendly America visit these resources:

https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-dementia

https://www.dfamerica.org/

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