5 Myths and Misconceptions About Dementia

5 Myths and Misconceptions About Dementia

User Profile By Molly Wisniewski   United States

Found In: Activities Articles Alzheimer's & Dementia

Because so many people in care homes have dementia, many will assume that all the residents in need of care have dementia. However, this is not always the case, and leads to several common myths and misconceptions about dementia.
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Dementia is a complex term that is often given as a general diagnosis for any decline in a person's cognitive ability. Dementia is not a disease, but rather a group of symptoms that associate to memory loss and cognitive decline.

Because so many people in care homes have dementia, many will assume that all the residents in need of care have dementia. However, this is not always the case, and leads to several common myths and misconceptions about dementia.

1. Misconception: Dementia is the same thing as Alzheimer's disease

Many people think that there is no difference between dementia and Alzheimer's disease and will often reference the two interchangeably. Alzheimer's disease is a type of dementia and is the most common form of dementia, which is why there is a misconception.

Dementia is not a disease but rather a group of symptoms and Alzheimer's is categorized as a disease. A good way to separate the two is to say, "Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia."

2. Myth: Everyone has the same type of dementia

Since Dementia is commonly the only diagnosis seen listed in a resident's chart, it is assumed that everyone with dementia has the same symptoms or the same type of dementia. This is far from the truth and in fact, symptoms of dementia are unique to each resident.

The most common types of dementia are:

Each of these diagnosis's have their own distinct set of needs. Approaches to the way we deliver care will require adjustment based on individual assessment.

3. Myth: All older adults have dementia

Old age has several of its own set of myths and misconceptions, one of them being that everyone that grows old will lose their memory.

Popular phrases like, "I'm having a senior moment" or "You can't teach an old dog new tricks" promote offensive stereotypes of what it means to grow old and have left many people thinking that dementia symptoms are a normal part of aging.

They are not! While yes, dementia is common in older adults, it doesn't mean everyone will or should receive a diagnosis of dementia. This persistent stereotype runs the risk of giving an early diagnosis of dementia to a person merely by associating a person's symptoms to their age.

4. Myth: People with dementia are like children

Older adults who require assistance in their Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) are sometimes referenced as being a lot like children. Even if we can find similarities in the provision of care, it doesn't mean that residents should be treated like children.

One way to alter this perception is to change the words we use. For instance, at mealtimes, residents who need assistance in feeding are regularly told to put on their bibs. Instead of using the word bibs, closely associated with a feeding tool for babies, reference them as ‘clothing protectors'.

As Activity Professionals, it is important that no matter the functioning level of the resident, we provide them with activities that are respectful and that are dignified. Coloring is a popular activity for residents, which offers several benefits like reducing stress. Choosing age-appropriate images is important in this activity.

5. Misconception: People with dementia can't speak for themselves

Have you ever noticed a family member or staff person talk about or answer for a resident while they are sitting right there?

Not every resident can answer for themselves, and those who can't will, of course, need assistance in communicating. However, what often ends up happening, particularly to residents who are further along in their dementia, is that people will begin to speak for them.

While this comes from a good place, it can quickly take the independence away from the resident. Even residents with advanced dementia can often make decisions if we change our approach to communication and give them more opportunities to understand what we are asking.

  • Speak slowly and in short sentences
  • Offer cues in speech
    • Are you asking what they want to eat for lunch? Start by exclaiming, "I'm Hungry!"
  • Limit choices and provide visual aids
    • Are you asking if they want pie or ice cream? Show them a plate of each so that they can point.
  • Give them time to answer

Making decisions or speaking for them might make everything easier, but it does take away from their autonomy, Where possible, all residents should be given the chance to speak for themselves.

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Comments   Post a Comment

Joe 26th Jun 2020
Thank you Molly for the informative post.
Where I come from some care workers need this education otherwise it is a big problem rendering care. Dementia is generally associated with all old people here, this should not be the case though. The cause of this in my opinion is lack of skills development from facility management to regular care workers. Because of the variety of diagnosis of clients in one facility, those not in management or higher in nursing care hierarchy will be ignorant and sometimes indifferent to this important aspect of the work.

I'll gladly share to relieve the pain it causes seeing elderly/client abuse because of ignorance and indifference.

May God bless all those actively participating to help a fellow in need.
Susan 27th Jun 2020 Activity Director
Thank you Joe for sharing
Milyn 18th May 2018 Carer
Thank you for sharing your knowledge to all of Us :) it is very useful information to use to empower the lives and wellbeing of our client's that having Dementia! God Bless you and more power :)
Molly 22nd May 2018 Activity Professional & Writer
Thank you, Milyn. Yes, I completely agree that through understanding we all can empower the lives of our clients. I think you say that beautifully!
Bradley 16th May 2018 Activity Coordinator
Clear, concise, caring. Thank you, Molly. I'll be reposting this widely.
Molly 16th May 2018 Activity Professional & Writer
Thank you, Bradley. I'm so happy to hear you will be sharing!
kay 15th May 2018
Will be very helpful Thank you
Molly 16th May 2018 Activity Professional & Writer
Thank you, Kay! So glad this will be helpful.
Cheryl 15th May 2018 Therapy Assistant
Brilliant re-enforcement!
Molly 16th May 2018 Activity Professional & Writer
Right on, Cheryl! Even for those who understand its good to have a reminder now and then. Thanks for your comment!
Elizabeth 15th May 2018 Recreation Officer/AIN
Thank u for this information about Dementia. I will share this in our workplace. We can all learn from it
Molly 16th May 2018 Activity Professional & Writer
Thank you, Elizabeth! Thrilled you will be sharing the information with your community.
Mia 15th May 2018 Activities Manager
Very helpful information thank you!
Molly 16th May 2018 Activity Professional & Writer
So glad you found this helpful, Mia! Thank you.
Molly 14th May 2018 Activity Professional & Writer
Molly has submitted a new article: 5 Myths And Misconceptions About Dementia
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