Despite being a common disease affecting seniors worldwide, there are still many misconceptions surrounding Alzheimer's disease. Those who haven't had experience with the illness may not know much about how it actually affects people, and people who have provided family caregiving for someone with Alzheimer's don't always fully understand it.
Misconceptions can hurt
According to the Mayo Clinic's Alzheimer's blog, this misconception about the disease could make it more difficult for those who need help to seek it and get proper treatment. Fear of the disease, often stemming from unfamiliarity, could lead people to avoid a diagnosis or put off seeking treatment long enough to impact the care they receive. As the source reported, overcoming the stigma surrounding the disease and getting an earlier diagnosis could improve the quality of Alzheimer's care that a senior receives.
Clearing up some of the common myths about Alzheimer's could be a good first step toward helping people find the level of senior care they need. Some common misconceptions are that people with Alzheimer's always become aggressive or lose the ability to maintain a good quality of life. While these outcomes can both follow an Alzheimer's diagnosis - or the diagnosis of many other illnesses - they're by no means guaranteed in everyone with the disease.
The aggression that sometimes accompanies Alzheimer's is a reaction to the confusion and frustration that people who suffer from it often feel, rather than a direct symptom of the disease, according to the source. This confusion can manifest in a number of ways, aggression being just one of them. Similarly, people may believe that those with Alzheimer's can't continue to enjoy their lives because that's the only way they've seen people with the disease portrayed. Even in the late stages of the disease, people with Alzheimer's can live fulfilling lives. If a diagnosis is made early enough, people can get treatment that allows them to live fulfilling lives and even help support others with the disease.
Clearing the fog
With so many misconceptions about Alzheimer's, spreading accurate information about the disease could be one way to help those suffering from it achieve better levels of care. When people know more about the condition, they may be more likely to help a loved one receive a diagnosis or seek one for themselves.
Many people may think of Alzheimer's just in terms of its effects on memory and cognition, not considering that the disease can be treated as a cause of death as well. Data from the Alzheimer's Association and the U.S. Centers of Disease Control have shown that the condition is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. and that one-third of seniors die with some form of dementia. Those figures speak to both how common and how deadly the disease can be. However, another illustration of how widespread the disease is came from the Alzheimer's Association, which stated that more than 5 million people in the U.S. have Alzheimer's, and another person develops it every 67 seconds.
In addition to the symptoms caused by Alzheimer's, it can take a toll on those providing care to loved ones with the disease. The Alzheimer's Association reported that more than 15.5 million people in American provided caregiving to a loved one with Alzheimer's in 2013, totaling over 17 billion hours of work. These caregivers spent an additional $9.3 billion on their own health care due to the stress of providing care.