For World Alzheimer’s Day today, 21 September, our experts from the UK and Australia share what you need to know about Alzheimer's.
Busting the myths around Alzheimer’s
With more than 12 years specialising in aged care, Aileen Waton, Head of Dementia for Bupa Care Services UK, says that, despite an increased public awareness of the condition, there are still a lot of misconceptions surrounding Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Here, Aileen shares some of the most common misconceptions she hears as a nurse, and reveals the truth about Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Alzheimer’s and dementia are the same thing
“Not exactly. Dementia is an umbrella term for symptoms that affect your mental cognitive skills, like memory and communication. Alzheimer’s is one of the diseases that can cause dementia. In fact, Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for about two thirds of all cases. In the UK, approximately 850,000 people have been diagnosed with a form of dementia, including over 500,000 Brits who are living with Alzheimer’s disease.”
There’s no point visiting someone with dementia as they won’t remember
“It’s true that if you visit someone in the later stages of Alzheimer’s, they might not recognise you or remember your visit. But this isn’t to say they can’t enjoy your company. No one likes to feel lonely, as it’s a natural human instinct to seek company. While the memory of a visit might not last as long, in the moment your companionship can really mean a lot – particularly when someone’s feeling more vulnerable or distressed.
“Personal interactions are so important, which is why our care homes organise activities like social evenings and local school visits. Even pet therapy can have a huge impact.”
Alzheimer’s and dementia is an old persons’ disease
“No, dementia can actually develop in the brain up to 25 years before symptoms start to show. The reason it’s more common to see the symptoms dementia in older people is because they’re living long enough for the disease to fully progress.
“While it’s a much less common strand of dementia – accounting for about 5% of cases - there are also around 42,000 people in the UK with young-onset dementia.”
Alzheimer’s is hereditary
“Generally this isn’t the case. Lots of people think that they’re at a higher risk of dementia, simply because they’ve seen it in their parents or grandparents. However, like most forms of dementia, Alzheimer’s isn’t hereditary.
“There are some rare types of dementia that can be inherited, but with these the disease tends to develop earlier in life and people can start showing the signs in their 30s.”
Alzheimer’s and dementia only affect your memory
“While it’s true the disease does affect memory, it also can affect a person’s behaviour, mood and in some cases they’ll notice some changes to their preferences, such as what they like to eat and drink.
“You might also notice that they’re distracted or show unusual behaviour, such as angry outbursts or becoming depressed or anxious. If this is the case, talk to a GP to see what’s causing this.”
For more information about Alzheimer’s and dementia, visit the Bupa Dementia Hub.
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