Confronting the myths
Here are the most common myths which perpetuate misleading information and stigma about Alzheimer’s disease and the other forms of dementia –
Myth 1: "Dementia is a natural part of ageing"
Dementia is not a natural part of ageing.
It is a group of neurodegenerative diseases that affect both young people (younger onset dementia) and older people (those aged over 65). Dementia is a social and health condition, not just an aged care issue.
Dementia is the second leading cause of mortality and morbidity in Australia - 1
Dementia vs. typical age related changes 2
Click here to learn more about dementia as a disease.
Myth 2: "Dementia is untreatable and cannot be slowed down"
There is no cure for dementia, but early symptoms can be managed through a combination of medication and lifestyle changes.
Early diagnosis is important for successful treatment and extended quality of life.
You can also support risk reduction strategies. Just as you would with heart disease and stroke, you can advise your patients to make life changes that reduce the likelihood they will develop dementia - the earlier, the better.
Myth 3: “I’m not able to support a patient with dementia.”
General practitioners, general practice nurses and other primary health care professionals play a crucial role in assisting their patients to find specialised care, support, counselling and information.
Your advice, experience and ability to offer your patients services and resources about end of life planning, driving and non-pharmacological treatments is vital.
So too is managing their medication.
Myth 4: "Early diagnosis is not beneficial"
By recognising and understanding the symptoms of dementia, general practitioners, general practice nurses and their primary care teams are in a critical position to empower their patients.
Early diagnosis is important to determine appropriate treatment needs for your patient and to help them plan for their future.
Furthermore, a timely diagnosis provides your patient with the opportunity to learn about their condition, understand changes as they occur and better plan for the range of day to day issues associated with having a cognitive impairment.
Health professionals can support people living with dementia, along with their families and carers, to achieve better clinical outcomes and a better quality of life.
Links to benefits of early diagnosis:
Six reasons why early diagnosis of dementia does not occur and ten reasons why it is important Professor Henry Brodaty (Scientia Professor of Ageing and Mental Health, Co-Director of the Centre for Healthy Brain Aging (UNSW), Director of the Dementia Collaborative Research Centre (UNSW), and Consultant Psychogeriatrician)
Detect Early –This site provides a wide range of resources and tools to help detect and manage dementia at the early stages
- Exploring Dementia and Stigma Beliefs Paper 28 Dementia Australia (2011)