Despite the efforts of countless organizations dedicated to promoting awareness about Alzheimer’s disease, many misconceptions still exist regarding the disease and the individuals who suffer from it. Clearing up Alzheimer’s disease myths is important, since misunderstandings can have adverse impacts on decisions regarding Alzheimer’s care and treatment.
Myth #1: Alzheimer’s Disease Is a Normal Part of Aging
This is perhaps one of the most dangerous Alzheimer’s disease myths, as it can be a barrier to seeking proper Alzheimer’s care and treatment. Although some memory loss is a normal part of aging for most people, the severe memory loss accompanying Alzheimer’s disease is not a part of the normal aging process. This type of memory loss affects daily functioning and prevents an individual with Alzheimer’s from carrying out even simple, familiar tasks.
Myth #2: Older People Are the Only Ones Who Get Alzheimer’s
The vast majority of Alzheimer’s cases are late-onset cases. Late-onset (or “sporadic”) Alzheimer’s disease symptoms don’t begin to develop until at least 60 to 65 years of age.
According to the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, approximately 5 to 10 percent of all Alzheimer’s cases are early-onset Alzheimer’s cases. Early-onset (or “familial”) Alzheimer’s disease tends to develop after 50 years of age, but has been known to develop in individuals as young as 30.
Myth #3: Alzheimer’s Disease is Genetic
There is no single, known cause of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Rather, the disease appears to be the result of a variety of risk factors. A family history of Alzheimer’s disease is one of these risk factors. Other risk factors include:
- Head trauma
- Medical disorders.
Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, however, is inherited. According to the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada, even if only one parent has familial Alzheimer’s disease, his or her child will have a 50 percent chance of inheriting the disease.
Myth #4: Alzheimer’s Disease Can’t Really be Treated
Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, that does not mean there is no effective treatment for the disease. Alzheimer’s care and treatment can help to address the debilitating symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and improve the quality of life of the patient.
Myth #5: People with Alzheimer’s Disease Are Completely Unaware of Their Surroundings
This is another one of the dangerous Alzheimer’s disease myths, as it can have an effect on the way people treat those with Alzheimer’s disease. Although individuals with Alzheimer’s disease often lose their ability to communicate and to understand verbal and/or written communication, most people still recognize non-verbal communication, such as a smile.
Alzheimer Society of Canada. (n.d.) Alzheimer’s disease: myth and reality. Retrieved April 27, 2010, from http://www.alzheimer.ca/english/disease/myths.htm.
Mayo Clinic. (2009). Early-onset Alzheimer’s: when symptoms begin before 65. Retrieved April 27, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/alzheimers/AZ00009.
University of Michigan (2007). Misconceptions about Alzheimer’s varies among races, survey suggests. Retrieved April 27, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070918174007.htm.
World Health Organization. (n.d.) Myths and misconceptions about Alzheimer’s disease. Retrieved April 27, 2010, from http://www.searo.who.int/en/Section1174/Section1199/Section1567/Section1823_8047.htm.