Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that primarily affects memory and other mental functions. People developing this condition have problems with their brain cells which start degenerating and eventually die, leading to memory loss and confusion. Although there is no cure for this disease, certain medications and management strategies can be helpful. There is a lack of awareness about this disease and different myths are prevalent. Therefore, it is very important to address these myths to create more awareness about this disease. Some of these include:
- Myth: Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are the same
Fact: The terms Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are frequently used interchangeably, but there is a distinction. Alzheimer’s is just one but common type of dementia that affects memory, thinking, reasoning, and behavior. There are other types of dementia, such as Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and vascular dementia.
- Myth: Alzheimer’s disease affects only people in their 70s and older
Fact: While age is the most significant risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease it can occur in younger age in familial predisposition. Early-onset Alzheimer’s occurs when a person develops the disease between 30 and 60. Although the cause is uncommon and accounts for less than 10 per cent of Alzheimer’s patients, it can be challenging.
- Myth: Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are normal as we get older
Fact: With age, many people become more forgetful and occasionally lose or misplace things. This is very common and can happen to anyone, even people after ageing. However, typical Alzheimer’s symptoms and signs, such as frequent memory gaps, making poor judgments and decisions, having trouble identifying friends and family, or forgetting the date or the season, are not a normal part of ageing. One must consult the doctor in case of frequent symptoms.
- Myth: Alzheimer’s is not fatal
Fact: Alzheimer’s can endanger life. The person can forget to drink or eat which can lead to a shortage of nutrients in the body. Moreover, Alzheimer’s patients also have high-risk behaviours that include wandering into dangerous areas or situations that can put their lives in danger due to poor judgment.
- Myth: There are treatments that stop the disease
Fact: It is important to know that there is no effective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. While certain drugs can help but they will not completely cure the disease.
As Alzheimer’s is a progressive condition, it is very important for people to be aware about the early signs and symptoms. For caregivers who take care of these patients on a daily basis, it is equally important for them to empathize with the patients and help them lead a normal life. As Alzheimer’s patients depend on others for most of their work, it can be very challenging to deal with them and could lead to burnout. Therefore, it is important for caregivers to equally take care of themselves and deal with these patients with empathy. As people suffering from Alzheimer’s have difficulty in dealing with basic activities in the later stages, one must also ensure that they are kept in a safe environment to avoid any risk of accidents.
The author is a Consultant, Neurology, Manipal Hospitals, Jaipur. Views are personal