You Should Never Believe These Lies You’ve Been Told About Dementia

Millions of people around the world live with dementia. Some people show certain warning signs, while others show none. Your level of risk depends on a number of factors, including where you live and whether or not you have another health condition.

Being informed is one of the most important steps you can take before or after a diagnosis. There are plenty of dementia myths out there — and your future health might depend on knowing the facts instead of the lies.

Myth No. 1: Dementia is not a deadly disease

care giver assisting a woman with a walker

It is actually one of the leading causes of death. | Carsten Koall/Getty Images

Because dementia is a disease that progresses slowly — sometimes over a span of years — it’s common to think it can’t kill you. In reality, Alzheimer’s disease, just one form of the illness, is one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States.

Next: There’s actually more than one type of dementia.

Myth No. 2: Alzheimer’s and dementia are the same thing

Make sure you regularly talk to your doctor about your health.

The two diseases are different. | Ridofranz/ iStock / Getty Images Plus

If you have Alzheimer’s disease, you have dementia. But not all dementia cases are Alzheimer’s cases. In fact, there are many different types of dementia that can affect your ability to think and remember things clearly.

Next: Seniors aren’t the only ones who can get it.

Myth No. 3: You can only get dementia after 65

Senior Couple with Water Bottles

Dementia can strike early. | Feverpitched/iStock/Getty Images

Even though dementia is much more common in older populations, people younger than 65 are not immune to what’s called early onset dementia. People in their 30s, 40s, and 50s still have a small chance of developing the disease.

Next: It’s not normal to feel confused or forgetful, regardless of your age.

Myth No. 4: Dementia is a normal part of aging

Not every person will struggle with dementia. | Monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

It’s normal to experience some memory loss as you get older — experts call it “age-associated memory impairment.” This is not the same thing as the memory issues that occur when someone has dementia. It’s not a guarantee that when you get older, you’ll definitely develop dementia.

Next: It’s a lot more common to get dementia than you might think.

Myth No. 5: Dementia is very rare

elderly group of women having a meal

More people struggle with dementia than you might think. | monkeybusinessimages/ iStock / Getty Images Plus

Dementia isn’t as rare as you might think. Millions of people in the U.S. live with Alzheimer’s disease alone, and an estimated 93,000 people die from the disease every year. The older the majority of the population grows, the more common it becomes.

Next: Actually, genes aren’t everything.

Myth No. 6: If someone in your family has dementia, so will you

Senior Couple on airplane in the 1990s

You may be able to beat the odds. | Comstock/iStock/Getty Images

If someone in your family has dementia, you’re more likely to develop the disease at some point throughout your life. But just because your parent or grandparent is diagnosed, for example, does not mean you’re definitely going to experience the disease yourself.

Next: This is not actually the best way to prevent dementia.

Myth No. 7: Memory-boosting supplements can prevent dementia

Composition with dietary supplements capsules

Do these supplements even work? |

Beware of supplements that promise to specifically boost your memory. So far, there isn’t quite enough evidence out there to prove “memory pills” decrease your dementia risk. Staying mentally active, on the other hand, can actually make a difference.

Next: Does a diagnosis mean everything has to change?

Myth No. 8: People with dementia can’t stay in their homes

a nurse takes notes as elderly patients sit

Many people with dementia live fulfilling lives at home. | Carsten Koall/Getty Images

Many people living with dementia do eventually need more professional assistance than their loved ones can provide. But especially in the early days after a dementia diagnosis, as long as the environment is safe, taking steps like moving to an assisted living facility aren’t always necessary.

Next: Feeling like you’re losing your memory? Don’t jump to conclusions.

Myth No. 9: If you have memory loss, you have dementia

Older Thinking

Everyone forgets things from time to time. | Marina113/iStock/Getty Images

Not all people who experience memory loss have dementia — and not all people with dementia experience the same degree of memory loss, if any. You can speak with your doctor about any concerns related to your memory, but don’t jump to conclusions about a diagnosis you might not actually get.

Next: Your life isn’t over just because this happens.

Myth No. 10: Once you’re diagnosed, there’s nothing you can do

Older at doctor

There are healthy next steps after a diagnosis. | Monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

A dementia diagnosis isn’t the end of everything you know and love. There’s still plenty you can do to take care of yourself and prepare for the future. Doctors make many recommendations to patients recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, for example, to help them take next steps.

Next: Think it isn’t preventable? Think again.

Myth No. 11: You can’t do anything to reduce your dementia risk

Senior couple performing yoga exercise

Exercise always helps. |

While it’s true that you can’t control certain dementia risk factors, like your age, there are many things you can still do, even in your 50s and beyond, to decrease your risk. Eating certain foods, exercising regularly, and even changing your sleeping habits can diminish your chances of getting dementia.

Next: You’ve probably fallen for this advertising lie.

Myth No. 12: Brain training apps boost memory and prevent dementia

hand wearing glove holding smartphone

Do these apps even work? | NemanjaMiscevic/iStock/Getty Images

There are dozens of apps and games out there that claim spending time — and money — on them will decrease your dementia risk. If this sounds too good to be true, it’s because it is. There’s no evidence to date that proves a game designed to exercise memory has any effect on whether or not you get dementia.

Next: If you have dementia, it doesn’t mean you’re helpless.

Myth No. 13: Having dementia means you can’t tell others what you need

nurse and patient home care (focus on man)

Your form of dementia may be different. | Mandygodbehear/iStock/Getty Images

It’s a misconception that everyone with dementia can’t communicate what they want or need, or don’t understand what is going on around them. Dementia affects everyone differently, depending on the type and how much it has progressed.

Next: This behavior is not true of most people living with dementia.

Myth No. 14: People with dementia behave violently

Dementia isn’t an excuse to behave badly. |

Miscommunication, frustration, and even pain can cause some people with dementia to exhibit aggressive behavior. But it’s uncommon for individuals to become violent, either verbally or physically. In the rare cases they do, there is always an underlying cause.

Next: Unfortunately, a diagnosis is permanent.

Myth No. 15: Dementia can be cured

Doctor doing MRI of a patient

Currently, there is no way to reverse the disease. |

If you or someone you know has received a dementia diagnosis, there’s no reversing it — at least, not yet. Researchers are developing possible treatments for one specific type of dementia, which could one day lead to a cure.

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