Historically, limited medical research and lack of public awareness has led to many myths and misconceptions about what dementia is, what causes it and what life is like for the person and their family living with dementia. One of the biggest issues is that dementia has been a hidden disease for many years, often dismissed as ‘just old age’ or something families have been too ashamed to talk about it.
We do now know a lot more about dementia than we used to. Here we have identified some important facts about dementia that you should know. This will help you to separate the dementia facts from the fiction.
1. Not only elderly people get dementia
It is a myth that only elderly people get dementia. Sadly, dementia can begin to affect people in their 30s, 40s and 50s – this is known as early-onset dementia. It is estimated by the Alzheimer’s Society that there are at least 40,000 people living with early-onset dementia in the UK.
There are certain types of rare dementia that are more often diagnosed in people who are aged 50-65, rather than the elderly. These include; Corticobasal Degeneration and Posterior Cortical Atrophy.
2. Dementia and Alzheimer’s are not the same thing
Dementia and Alzheimer’s are not the same thing. Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia – it is one of many types. Though it is the most common type, making up 2 out of 3 cases, there are other pathways to dementia that do not involve Alzheimer’s disease. Read more on our page – The difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s .
3. If a relative has dementia, you will not inevitably get dementia too
If a relative has dementia, it does not mean that you are destined to get it also. The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s, and there is not a clear pathway of genetic inheritance. It is therefore far from inevitable that you will get dementia just because your relative has it.
Different types of dementia have greater and lesser levels of genetic inheritence. Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia are not particularly inheritable, but frontotemporal dementia has a stronger level of inheritance. Even in the case of frontotemporal dementia, evidence suggests that if a relative has it, there is a 1 in 8 chance that you will get it yourself.
4. There are things that can be done to reduce the risk of dementia
Different types of dementia have different causes, but the major types such as Alzhiemer’s and vascular dementia have certain factors that can increase the likelihood of you developing them.
Steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of dementia include:
- Not smoking
- Not drinking
- Eating healthily
You can read more about reducing the risks on our page – how to reduce your risk of dementia.
5. Dementia is sometimes fatal
Some people think that dementia is just about memory loss. Sadly, dementia is fatal in most cases. Dementia refers to progressive damage to the brain – memory loss is a symptom of this. Given there is no cure for dementia, all people who are diagnosed with dementia die with it – but not always of it. Other health issues can come into play as a person gets older and the care a person receives can greatly influence their safety and life expectancy.
6. There are treatments that can help with the symptoms of dementia
It is true that there is no cure for dementia, and there are no treatments that can reverse the effects of dementia.
However, there are treatments that can help to manage the symptoms of dementia. These include drugs such as AchE inhibitors, which can help nerve cells in the brain to communicate with one another.
Non-medicinal treatments can also help to manage the symptoms of dementia. This includes cognitive stimulation therapy to aid memory, and cognitive rehabilitation to keep all parts of the brain active.
7: Once you have been diagnosed with dementia, you can still live independently
Many people assume that once they have been diagnosed with dementia they will have to stop driving, give up work and will lose power over their finances etc. This is not true. People with mild dementia can usually continue to carry out most of their daily tasks for a significant period of time after diagnosis. 1 in 3 people with dementia continue to drive.
As the condition progresses, however, motor skills and processing skills tend to get worse. This can make carrying out day-to-day tasks more difficult for people with dementia. People with late-stage dementia can still continue to live fulfilling lives: they may just need an increased level of outside care and support.
People with later-stage dementia are likely to require support with day-to-day tasks. One option worth consideration is live-in care. Read our guide to the best live-in care companies, all of which provide specialist live-in care for people with dementia.