As we grow older we often turn our thoughts to how we will be in our dotage. We want to look forward to watching our family tree grow and be able to offer help and advice whenever needed.
One of our main fears is that we may grow senile and be a burden to our families. This means it may be easy to focus on the more negative aspects of dementia. Fear mainly comes from a lack of knowledge and there has been a lot of myth about this progressive disease of the brain that fuels a fear of being at the mercy of an illness we feel we can do nothing about.
Alzheimer’s disease: Dispelling the misconceptions:
MYTH: If you have dementia you have Alzheimer’s
FACT: Not true. There can be many reasons for having dementia and some medical conditions can
exhibit similar symptoms to dementia. Seeking a medical opinion is the only way to find out for sure.
MYTH: Memory loss is a part of growing old
FACT: Memory loss is NOT a part of growing old and if you are becoming very forgetful as you get older it may be possible that you are suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. It is important to get a medical opinion.
MYTH: Alzheimer’s is a disease that only old people get.
FACT: The risk of developing Alzheimer’s does increase with age. Although young people can develop the illness, the vast majority of people will begin to show symptoms after the age of 65 and half of them over the age of 85, yet there is still a 10% risk of contracting the disease due to hereditary or other medical factors.
MYTH: Alzheimer’s disease can be cured if caught early enough.
FACT: This disease is fatal. However certain medication does have a positive effect in slowing down the symptoms, with the most significant results resulting from a speedy diagnosis. If the symptoms are properly managed a sufferer can live for a period of between 8 20 years.
MYTH: If you had food cooked in an aluminum pan when you were younger you are very likely to get Alzheimer’s.
FACT: In depth study between the link between aluminum and Alzheimer’s has come up as inconclusive although it may be wise to stay away from aluminum until more facts are verified.
MYTH: Aspartame causes memory loss leading to Alzheimer’s disease.
FACT: After reviewing more than 100 clinical and laboratory studies it has been concluded by the FDA that Aspartame is perfectly safe for people to consume.
MYTH: Flu shots increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
FACT: The doctor who put forward this theory has been discredited and his license revoked. It has been suggested through further research that having the flu jabs may even help reduce the risk to dementia. If you have an concerns, consult your medical adviser for advice.
MYTH: A blow to the head can cause Alzheimer’s.
FACT: Although there has been some link to an increased risk of developing the disease, a blow to the head cannot directly start the process of Alzheimer’s.
MYTH: No one in my family suffers with Alzheimer’s so I am safe from the disease.
FACT: Only 5% of all Alzheimer cases are down to an hereditary influence, the other 95% will come from a combination of age, medical and other contributory factors.
MYTH: Women get the disease more than men.
FACT: This may look as though women are at more risk than men but some scientists believe that women seem to suffer with the illness more because they live longer than men and so have more chance of developing the illness.
MYTH: My life is over because I have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
FACT: People go on to live for many years after their diagnosis. With the introduction of much more effective symptom relieving medication and a better awareness of the condition, people are finding that they can cope with, and lessen the effects of the symptoms for far longer than they may have dreamed possible.
MYTH: You will get violent towards your care giver as the disease progresses.
FACT: Great frustration and an inability to understand something or trouble with communication may bring bouts of “lashing out” either verbally or physically. These are usually brought on by “triggers” to the brain which can be usually managed when the caregiver learns to recognize what sets them off.
MYTH: You will totally lose your mind and die a vegetable.
FACT: We cannot argue that this type of dementia does eat away at the memory and that eventually the patient does end up with basic function. However, many people will live many years and may even end up dying from an unrelated cause. The main thing is to seek a prognosis of your condition as soon as you feel any concerns. The earlier the diagnosis, the better chance you will have to promote the length of your life through the use of medication and a knowledgeable management of your symptoms.
In conclusion, it must be remembered that Alzheimer’s is a neurological illness and no two people will ever suffer from it in the same way. Many people will recount their own experiences as they have come to understand the illness from a personal viewpoint and it can be considered that what might be true for one case may not be so for another.
Although it may be useful to learn from the experiences of other people and draw comfort from the advice that we seek from those that have suffered in the same way, it is always wise to keep an open mind about this disease and always gather your own facts and consult proper medical advice before coming to any definite conclusions or care giving.