Five Myths About Alzheimer’s Disease

In order to help an Alzheimer's patient, a caregiver must possess patience and a genuine understanding of what the disease really is.  Common myths about Alzheimer's disease only add to the stress of an already difficult situation.  The more caregivers and family members can learn about this disease, and better understand the problem, the more effort can be put towards helping the patient.

Consider five common myths about Alzheimer's disease as well as the reality.

Myth One. My parent or grandparent has Alzheimer's disease.  That means I’ll probably get it too.

Reality: Although genetics can be involved in the disease, did you know only five to ten percent of total cases are actually the direct result of genes?  The majority of cases have no definite or identifiable cause.  Nothing can explain why Alzheimer’s disease develops or who is sure to inherit it.  Even a healthy lifestyle and good diet, while generally a good defense against ill health, is not a sure protection.  Alzheimer's disease can affect anyone.  Understanding this fact can help others to be sensitive to patients’ needs as well as better informed on the reality of this disease.

Myth Two.  I’ve heard there is a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

Reality: While that would be wonderful news, unfortunately there is no cure at this time.  There are medications and forms of therapy that can manage the symptoms in some individuals.  As far as a definite cure goes, researchers continue to look into this disease and remain optimistic.

Myth Three.  What if someone I love develops the disease?  What do I do or say?  How long do I have to say goodbye?

Reality: Just because someone has the disease does not mean his or her life is over.  Many patients continue to live meaningful lives, just like anyone else would, and don’t feel as if their lives are over.  They are still capable of showing love to family members and finding happiness in the things they do.  Medications and treatments are also helping sufferers of the disease to cope.  The most important thing to ensure a patient’s comfort and happiness would be to provide good services, pleasant surroundings and willing support.

Myth Four.  I’ve heard stories of nice people becoming violent or at least extremely difficult after getting the disease.  Is this true?

Reality: Just as there is no sure explanation of why Alzheimer’s disease develops, there is no sure way to predict how a person will behave because of the symptoms.  The disease affects each person differently.  For patients, the loss of memory and the state of confusion it causes can be a very frustrating experience.  It can even be a frightening one, and some patients could react aggressively because of confusion or fear.  By learning about the disease, adapting to the patient’s surroundings and changing the style of communication, caregivers and family members can prevent aggressive activity if it ever comes up.

Myth Five.  People with Alzheimer’s disease are insane or unable to understand what is happening around them.

Reality: Number five is an especially important myth to dispel.  There is no way to summarize the mindset for the entire population of patients for this disease.  Many patients do understand what is going on around them and some might have difficulty.  By broad definition, Alzheimer’s disease affects a person’s ability to communicate and make sense of the world around. But to what extent this is observed in each person is different.  Assuming that a patient does not understand what is being stated, implied, or even said to the company of others, is a mistake that can cause misunderstandings or even hurt feelings.

Remember that a person with Alzheimer’s disease is in pain, and deserves to be treated with kindness and respect.  He or she is still the same person as before and should always be shown dignity.  Believing common myths about the condition rather than learning the reality can only make living conditions more difficult.  Don’t be satisfied with the myths about Alzheimer’s disease.  Get educated.  Learn about the disease.  Seek help.  Learn the best ways to help care for patients.  With a little patience and a lot of understanding, caregivers and family members can help in the battle against Alzheimer’s disease.