Common Myths about Dementia
Like many health conditions, dementia is often misunderstood. There are many myths surrounding the condition, sometimes believed by well-meaning individuals.
Often, we want these myths to be true, especially if they would help the people we love and care about. One example is the myth that dementia has a cure. Unfortunately, there is still no cure for dementia. However, the condition can be managed – you can learn more about this throughout this page.
Here, Focus Care dispels some of the many myths about dementia that you may have heard. With the correct information, we can promote understanding – and better care for your loved ones.
Myth 1: People with dementia are best looked after in a nursing home
We believe in supporting a person living with dementia from the comfort and familiarity of their own home. Using the Montessori Method of care, we focus on each client’s individual strengths, needs and potential. When living in their own home, we know that memory and recall is at its strongest.
This method also empowers people living with dementia because they feel included, like they have a choice. Maintaining their own agency is an important factor relating to independence. Dementia is confusing enough, without having to adapt to new surroundings.
Our caring team helps people to live in their own homes for as long as possible. You can contact us by calling or using the form at the bottom of this page to discuss your options. In the meantime, read our advice on making your home more dementia-friendly.
Myth 2: People with dementia can't learn new things
This is a commonly held belief, but thankfully, it’s not usually true. In fact, some research suggests that learning new skills can actually slow down decline and help fight dementia.
Lots of activities are good for our brain health, and it’s never too late to begin. From crosswords to photography and volunteering to tennis, any kind of mental stimulation engages a person with dementia which can help improve how they cope.
If you want to help your loved one, Montessori methods for dementia care can help your loved one to stay engaged and independent with fun, interesting activities.
We’ve developed the Montessori in Focus Program for Dementia. This incorporates Montessori methods to treat the symptoms of dementia in an engaging way. Contact us if you would like more information on our program.
Myth 3: You can't treat or slow down dementia
At Focus Care, we know that symptoms of dementia can be managed, meaning that there are ways to slow cognitive decline. This can be achieved in a number of ways, many of which will need to be discussed with your doctor.
This is another reason why we champion the Montessori Method of care. By engaging this person-centred method, we can engage with clients to help slow cognitive decline. Our Montessori in Focus Program for Dementia is especially relevant to families with this aim.
Myth 4: Early diagnosis makes no difference
If you suspect that your loved one may be showing the early signs of dementia, it’s important to speak to a medical professional for a diagnosis. They may show reluctance and like to pretend that everything is fine, but by recognising these signs early on, you’ll be doing them a favour. Ensure that you communicate with your loved one about your plans to ensure they aren’t kept in the dark.
Early diagnosis does make a difference and helps ensure your family member gets the right treatment. It also empowers those living with the condition to be able to have a say. They’re more likely to understand their own condition and any changes as they occur. There are many ways to slow cognitive decline, so the earlier this is picked up on, the sooner you can support them in improving their quality of life.
Myth 5: Dementia only affects seniors
The majority of people living with dementia in Australia are over 65. One in ten people older than this are affected, which rises to three in ten people over the age of 85.
However, dementia can affect anyone, with a smaller number of people in their 40s, 50s and even younger affected. In fact, of the estimated 459,000 Australian residents living with the condition, it’s thought that almost 28,000 of them have younger onset dementia.
Those with early-onset dementia can usually apply for an NDIS Plan to treat and manage their condition. As specialists in dementia care, we are providing support for many Australians with early-onset dementia to help maintain independence and learn how to live comfortably with the condition.
Myth 6: All memory loss is caused by dementia
Everyone forgets things – this is a natural part of life! Whether we forget to pick the kids up from school or the ending of the movie we saw last week, it happens.
However, when memory loss starts to affect daily function, this is more serious. This still doesn’t always indicate dementia, so it’s important to see a doctor at this point. Memory loss can be a symptom of other things, such as a head injury. Establishing the cause is really important to developing a treatment or care plan.
Myth 7: Memory loss is the only symptom of dementia
Symptoms of dementia vary greatly from person to person. If you’re worried about a loved one, look out for any of the following:
If you’ve noticed any other changes at all, it is worth consulting with a professional.
Change in personality
Withdrawal or not wanting to do things
Inability to do things they used to do
Problems with language
Difficulty performing daily tasks
Myth 8: Everyone with dementia becomes violent or aggressive
In life, everyone reacts differently in challenging situations. The same is true of people with a diagnosis of dementia, so not everyone becomes aggressive.
It can be frightening and upsetting if your loved one’s mood suddenly changes – they may lash out at you, simply for trying to help. However, try and put yourself in their shoes. They often face confusion and perhaps inability to explain or even understand what’s happening in their world. This results in frustration.
Something as simple as making their house a more dementia-friendly environment can dramatically reduce frustration and aggression. Follow our guide on Making Your Home Dementia-Friendly for some helpful tips.
Myth 9: A dementia diagnosis means life is over
At Focus Care, we strongly believe that a person living with dementia can continue living the life they have always lived, with a few modifications. The Montessori Method of approaching dementia care ensures that your loved one living with dementia can maintain as much independence as possible.
The more connection a person living with dementia is able to establish to their life before having the condition, the more easily they will manage their condition.
Our team can help your loved one with their desire to:
Do tasks around the home
Spend time in the community
Do DIY projects
Continue their hobbies
Myth 10: People with dementia don't know what's happening around them
People living with dementia have their good days as well as their bad ones, which you’ll soon recognise if you’re caring for someone with dementia. In order to encourage independence, aim to empower, not to patronise.
Don’t make assumptions. Even as the condition progresses and it becomes more difficult to interact with them, they may be able to understand more than you realise. Communication may be impaired, but if you show them respect and aim to reach them through other senses such as touch, this will be appreciated.
Myth 11: The words 'Alzheimer's' and 'Dementia' can be used interchangeably
Lots of people think dementia and Alzheimer’s are one and the same condition. It’s an easy mistake to make because they can be quite similar.
In fact, ‘dementia’ is the umbrella term for all types of dementia – there are around 400! Alzheimer’s is among the most common (along with vascular dementia) and has its own specific symptoms.
Myth 12: You should correct your loved ones' mistakes
If someone you care about has dementia, it can be hurtful to hear them call you the wrong name or forget a precious memory. However, supporting someone living with dementia requires a lot of patience, so it’s a dementia myth that you should always correct them.
While it may sometimes be necessary, always think first. Correcting them can cause them to feel defensive or even depressed, which in turn leads to even more confusion. As an alternative approach, consider gently asking more questions. If they are engaged, this can improve recall and they may even correct themselves. If not? Ask yourself if it really matters this time.
Myth 13: Dementia is not fatal
Unfortunately, one of the other key myths that we wish wasn’t true about dementia is that it isn’t fatal. Since 2016, dementia has actually been the leading cause of death among Australian women, and it’s the third-leading cause among our men.
In the later stages, functioning independently can become very difficult. Physical decline can also occur, affecting bodily functions such as swallowing and bladder or bowel control.
Palliative care is a great option at this point, and Focus Care has our own clinical team aiming to ensure your loved one’s last days are spent in comfort.