Roughly 800,000 people have been diagnosed with dementia in the UK and it’s estimated that around 400,000 people have dementia but don’t know it. Dementia can have a devastating impact on the person diagnosed as well as their loved ones, but it’s important to remember that you’re not alone.
There are several misconceptions about dementia. To help you understand the condition better, we have outlined what dementia isn’t:
It’s not a natural part of ageing
One of the biggest misconceptions surrounding dementia is that it only affects seniors. While it’s true that dementia mostly affects the elderly, it’s not a normal part of ageing and people can develop the condition at any age.
The chances of being diagnosed with dementia before the age of 65 are small, but younger people can develop what’s known as “young-onset dementia”. According to the charity Dementia UK, roughly 5% of people living with dementia in the UK have been diagnosed with young-onset dementia. However, the actual figure is likely to be higher than this due to the difficulties of diagnosing the condition.
It's not just about losing memory
People often associate dementia with memory loss, but many forms of dementia do not have memory loss as their first symptom. People with dementia can present a wide range of symptoms which may include:
- Memory loss
- Mood changes
- Difficulty concentrating
- Struggling to hold a conversation
- Difficulty doing simple daily tasks such as cooking or cleaning
It’s important to remember that memory loss doesn’t necessarily signify that someone has dementia. “Everyone becomes more forgetful as they get older; it is a natural part of aging. Just because you or a loved one has forgotten an appointment or can’t remember the name of someone, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have dementia” says Deanna Lane, Clinical Lead at Helping Hands Homecare. “GPs will conduct a specific set of tests to determine if a dementia diagnosis is the cause or other medical condition”. Therefore, it’s important to speak to your healthcare provider if you or a loved one is experiencing memory loss that’s bad enough to affect their quality of life and mood.
It's not a specific disease
Another common misconception is that dementia is a specific disease. However, it’s actually an umbrella term that covers a wide range of medical conditions that impair a person’s ability to think, remember and complete everyday activities.
Many people also believe that Alzheimer’s and dementia are the same things, when in fact, it’s a type of dementia. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia but there are other diseases that affect the brain such as Lewy Body Dementia and Frontotemporal Dementia.
It’s not hereditary
Many people are worried that they will develop dementia in later life if a family member has been diagnosed. The Alzheimer’s Society states that it’s rare for dementia to have a strong genetic link and this only represents a tiny proportion of the overall cases of dementia. In the vast majority of cases (more than 99 in 100), dementia is not inherited.
It’s not curable
Sadly, there is no known cure for dementia and the symptoms of the condition typically advance and worsen over time. However, that’s not to say that someone with the condition can’t maintain a good quality of life. Dementia care can provide people with dementia with dedicated support to enable them to live well despite the disease.
A home carer can assist your loved one with a wide range of daily activities including personal care, medication support, household tasks, or simply providing a source of comfort and companionship.
Dementia Awareness Week
There are lots of myths and misconceptions about dementia and education is key when it comes to raising awareness about the disease. It’s important to remember that people diagnosed with dementia continue can continue to live a happy and fulfilling life if they are offered the right care and support.
Dementia Awareness Week is an annual event that will be taking place from the 15th to the 21st of May to raise awareness of dementia and provide support to those affected by the disease. It’s hoped that by raising awareness about this condition, more people will be diagnosed earlier. It’s a great opportunity to take action to improve the lives of people affected by dementia. If you would like to get involved, look for events taking place in your community or contact your local dementia charity.