Krysta-Leigh Thames, Communications and Marketing Student
Quite often, Alzheimer’s is spoken about as the disease some seniors eventually get as they grow older and lose their memory. While generally correct, there is a lot more to it than that simple description.
Here are a few myths/ misconceptions and a few facts you need to know about this disease.
MYTH vs FACT
MYTH: If your parent/ grandparent had Alzheimer’s, you will have it too.
FACT: The Alzheimer’s Society of Canada states that less than 5% of cases of the disease have hereditary causes. This does not mean that the children or grandchildren of Alzheimer’s patients should not be cautious of getting the disease. Instead, they should be sure to consult with doctors on a regular basis and look out for possible symptoms.
MYTH: Only the elderly get this disease.
FACT: People in their 30's to 50's can start to develop Alzheimer's disease which is referred to as "Young Onset Alzheimer’s".
MYTH: Alzheimer’s is not fatal.
FACT: Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s is seen as a fatal disease. Because of the nature of Alzheimer’s, the brain cells of people who have the disease slowly deteriorate. This then leads to individuals not being able to remember important information and perform their day-to-day functions. It often leaves people more prone to infection and otherwise avoidable illnesses. This does not mean Alzheimer’s is an immediate death sentence. It is a slow downward progression with no distinct timeline. However, with proper care, patients are able to live long lives.
MYTH: Alzheimer’s can be cured.
FACT: While researchers and scientists are working to cure this degenerative brain disease, there has yet to be an approved cure for Alzheimer’s. The Alzheimer’s Association of Canada states, "There are currently no treatments available to slow or stop the brain damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease. However, several medications can temporarily help improve the symptoms of dementia for some people.” These medications help to increase the brain’s neurotransmitters which support brain functionality. The key to managing symptoms is early detection and medical treatment along with support and care from loved ones or caregivers.
MYTH: Memory loss automatically means Alzheimer’s disease.
FACT: While it is one of the main signs of Alzheimer’s, memory loss does not necessarily mean it is Alzheimer’s. Some people may experience memory loss as a natural sign of aging. This does not mean one should not be cautious. According to the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada, “If memory loss affects your day-to-day ability to function, communicate or is accompanied by a decrease in judgment or reasoning ability, it's best to see your doctor immediately.”
January is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month.
As we all get older, it is very important to be properly educated about this disease and debunk myths which could lead to misconceptions and mistreatment. The highly trained medical professionals at SCHC are always willing to help patients who show symptoms of this and any other mental health illnesses.
Our senior programs are also available to provide the much needed care and support for residents within the Scarborough community who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Click here for more information.