The World Health Organization estimates that more than 50 million people across the globe have dementia. Furthermore, at least 10 million new cases arise annually. Unfortunately, these statistics mean that most people know at least one person who has lived with or currently lives with dementia.
If you or a loved one has dementia, knowledge is power. Not only does correct information allow you to better advocate for your loved one and plan for the future, but it can also allow you the comfort of knowing more about what to expect from the disease. However, there are quite a few common misconceptions about dementia out there. Here are some of them so that you can learn the truths that will help you continue to know more about this disease.
Alzheimer’s Disease Is the Same as Dementia
Many people believe that Alzheimer’s disease and dementia mean the same thing. However, dementia is a general term that encompasses a variety of diagnoses, including Alzheimer’s disease. Though it is true that Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, there are other types that have their own specific characteristics.
If your loved one has dementia, ensure that you know what type they have. This will help you better educate yourself about the challenges and unique characteristics of their specific types of dementia.
Memory Loss Happens as You Age
This is a very common misconception that can often lead to misdiagnosis. It is common for people of all ages to forget things sometimes. After all, you have probably walked into a room wondering why you did, or may have had trouble finding the right word while telling a story. These examples are common and do not indicate dementia.
However, when memory loss begins to affect daily life, it is not normal. Feeling confused, getting lost, and making poor judgment calls can all indicate early warning signs of dementia and should be checked out by a physician.
If You Don’t Get Lost, You Don’t Have Dementia
Though getting lost in a familiar neighborhood can certainly indicate an early warning sign of dementia, it is definitely not the only sign to look for. Early stages of dementia can include symptoms such as:
- Inability to balance a checkbook or manage household tasks
- Inability to plan and prepare meals consistently
- Inability to follow a calendar or day planner consistently
- Inability to safely manage medications
For most people who are living through the early stages of the disease, they know they are having problems remembering, and it makes them feel afraid, overwhelmed, and embarrassed. They will work hard to maintain their normal life and to hide their memory loss from family and friends. This is called “masking,” and it can be quite stressful.
In many cases, early detection and diagnosis of dementia can often be a source of relief for the person and their loved ones. When the diagnosis is official, the family can rally behind the person to give them the support they need to stay healthy and safe.
Anyone with Dementia Should Live in a Nursing Home
People who are living with dementia have multiple options to consider for a safe living environment. When living through the early stages of the disease, most people can live at home alone or with a partner quite safely, with the right supports in place. However, dementia is always progressive, which means that it will continue to get more challenging over time.
People who are living with dementia can also live at home with help from a visiting in-home caregiver. This option can be expensive over time, but it is a good option for ensuring safety while searching for a specialized dementia care community.
Finally, senior living communities are an excellent and safe solution for people who are living with dementia. Though assisted living and skilled nursing facilities can accommodate seniors with cognitive loss, the ideal scenario is a specialized memory care neighborhood. These communities offer staff who are trained in dementia-specific interventions, as well as an environment and routine designed for comfort, socialization, and wellness.
You can learn more about senior living options, as well as more about dementia planning, by downloading our free guide, “Living Well with Dementia.” Co-written with Arbor Terrace residents who are living through early stage dementia, this guide offers a unique view of the emotions that come with a dementia diagnosis, as well as tips for supporting someone who is living with the disease.