September is dementia awareness month, and it’s the perfect time to debunk some of the common misconceptions circulating about dementia. Here are a few more.
Memory loss is the only symptom of dementia
While memory loss is a common symptom of dementia, it’s not the only one. Dementia can cause behavioural changes and mood changes, and affect language and communication ability, sensory perception, planning and problem solving abilities and the ability to experience pleasure, walk, swallow and speak.
People with dementia shouldn’t have pets
Understandably, there is the perception that those with dementia will be unfit carers for animals, as they may forget to feed, clean or medicate the pet. However, that’s not to say that people with dementia should never have pets. Rather, the ownership of the pet will need to be monitored by someone else (such as the carer), or systems set in place (such as self-feeding set-ups, and cat flaps) to ensure the pet is looked after regardless of the mental state of its owner.
If pets are really not an option for a dementia sufferer, there are other options available, such as realistic robotic pets, that can mimic the experience of owning a real pet. This type of pet can bring a lot of comfort and pleasure to older people with dementia, and significantly reduce anxiety and depression.
Semi-regular interactions with animals might also be a better option, with visits from a friend or family member’s pet.
People with dementia are safer indoors
It’s natural to worry that those with dementia might get themselves into trouble by spending time outdoors, and to prefer them to stay within the safety of the home. However, people living with dementia can gain extremely valuable benefits from being outdoors, such as:
- Stimulation of senses and memory
- Slowing, preventing or reducing of cognitive decline
- Enhanced feelings of independence and inclusion
- Enhanced sense of self-esteem and identity
- Improved mood and feelings of wellbeing
Getting outdoors is very worthwhile for those with dementia, although it may need to be done in a managed way. Perhaps a safe outdoor area could be created for the person to enjoy their morning coffee, or their carer could regularly take them for a walk outdoors. Sit with them near a window if going outdoors is not an option, and enjoy watching the birds. Pick a bunch of flowers or set up some pot plants indoors to help bring the outside in.
Click here to read more about how getting out into nature can help prevent cognitive decline in older people.
People with dementia all behave the same
People without a great knowledge of dementia usually only associate the symptoms of memory loss with the disease. However, there are different types of the disease, each with different symptoms, which will often lead to very different types of behaviour. Plus, everyone who gets dementia is an individual, with their own unique way of reacting and behaving. There are a whole range of dementia symptoms that display differently in different people, and how it manifests in one person will be different to how it manifests in another.
Dementia and ageing are the same
While dementia is often associated with ageing, it’s not a normal part of ageing, and plenty of people reach their later years without contracting dementia. While some memory loss does occur with ageing, dementia is more than just memory loss, encompassing a broad set of other symptoms.
There is only one type of dementia
Dementia is an umbrella term that refers not to one specific disease, but to a whole range of symptoms caused by disorders that impact the brain. There are many different types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s Disease, Lewy Body dementia and Vascular dementia, all of which have slightly different symptoms and causes.
There’s nothing I can do about a dementia diagnosis
While you can’t change the fact that you have dementia, there are things you can do to limit and slow down the progress of the disease. It helps to remain positive, try new things, keep your mind and body healthy and active and keep living your life. Physical exercise is an extremely important one, and can have wonderful benefits for those with dementia.
Read this handy article to discover how to minimise the effects of dementia.
If I get dementia my life is effectively over
Far from it. Receiving a dementia diagnosis does not need to prevent people from leading a fulfilling life, particularly with a little bit of support. And many people with dementia do not fit into the usual stereotype of a dementia sufferer. Many people with dementia volunteer in their community, take up new skills and hobbies, go the gym, and stay actively engaged with their community. It all depends on how you want to approach the diagnosis, and your attitude towards it.