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Myths About Dementia

Thursday, 02 Dec 2010 03:34 PM

The word dementia is often used in a derogatory way to imply that a person has minimal intelligence. This is far from the truth. Actually, dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a deterioration in mental functions such as memory, language, orientation, and judgment.

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There are several causes and types of dementia: Alzheimers, vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, and fronto temporal dementia, to name a few. Dementia usually affects people over the age of 65.

The first sign of dementia is loss of short-term memory. Other symptoms depend upon the brain areas that are affected. Some key symptoms are: loss of memory, disorientation, difficulty in communicating, difficulty with abstract thinking, reduced or poor judgment, difficulty in performing familiar tasks, rapid mood changes, misplacing things, loss of initiative, and change in personality.
There are many myths that exist about dementia and they can be detrimental when it comes to the care that is given to people suffering from the disorder. Therefore, it is important to dispel these myths so that dementia patients get good quality care, which will help improve their quality of life.
Myth 1: People with dementia behave like children: 
Fact: People with dementia are not childlike and should not be treated as children. The abovementioned myth results in caregivers talking down to them, which causes the person to respond with anger and disapproval, which in turn confuses the caregiver because they cannot understand the response. It is important to remember that a person with dementia has lived a long life full of experiences and wisdom. And one must treat them with respect and high regard. It is very important for them to feel valued and accepted.
Myth 2: People with dementia don’t know what they need or want and can't learn new things.
Fact: People with dementia are very clear about what their likes and dislikes are, even though they are sometimes unable to communicate them well. Like anyone else, they feel frustrated when people make decisions for them. Further, they are also able to learn new things. Some parts of their brain may not work well, but they have not lost their intelligence and capacity for thought and analysis.
Myth 3: Dementia is an inevitable part of aging.
Fact: Dementia is a medical condition and not an inevitable part of aging. The brain of a 115-year-old woman, when examined on her death, showed no signs of deterioration. Certain risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity can contribute to dementia. Therefore, signs of dementia should be investigated and treated at the earliest.
Myth 4: Dementia is caused by exposure to aluminum.
Fact: Although aluminum came under suspicion as a cause of dementia a few years ago, there is no truth to the fear, says Paul B. Rosenberg, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences in the division of geriatric psychiatry and neuropsychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.
Myth 5: There is nothing you can do about dementia once you have it.
Fact: Although dementia is a progressive disease, there are steps that can be taken to slow down its advancement, and ways can be found to compensate for loss of cognitive abilities in the early stages. Medications are available to address dementia symptoms. 

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