7 Dementia Myths

Published on 13/12/2018

Separating fact from fiction! RICE psychologist Zoe Lampshire takes a look at some common misconceptions...

MYTH 1 - Dementia is a normal part of aging

Some small changes in memory are normal as we age. However, dementia is different to normal aging. Dementia occurs as a result of diseases that affect the brain, particularly in areas related to memory and thinking processes. The diseases are progressive, meaning they get worse over time, and in turn means people’s memory and thinking abilities get worse over time as well.

MYTH 2 - Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease are the same thing

Dementia is set of symptoms, including memory changes, difficulty thinking, language changes, visual and perceptual difficulties, difficulty concentrating, and changes in behaviour and mood. Dementia occurs as a result of diseases that affect the brain, such as Alzheimer’s disease. There are many other diseases which cause dementia, including vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies and frontotemporal dementia.  

MYTH 3 - People with dementia are violent

Anger or aggression can be a response to some of the frustrations felt by people with dementia as they try to adjust to their symptoms, but it is by no means a feature of dementia and is not something that everyone experiences.

MYTH 4 - Dementia only affects older people

Dementia is most common in older people, however it is not exclusive to this age group. Around 5% of dementias in the UK are “early onset” dementias, meaning they began before the age of 65.  Some types of dementia are more likely to begin at a younger age, such as frontotemporal dementia. 

MYTH 5 - Dementia only affects memory

Dementia affects many different aspects of thinking and behaviour, not just memory. This includes concentration, attention, language skills, problem solving, planning, visual skills, control of emotions, impulsivity and many others. The type of dementia a person has influences which cognitive skills are most affected.

MYTH 6 - Dementia is hereditary

The majority of dementias are not directly inherited from your parents. A family history of dementia may mean you have a slightly increased risk of developing dementia, but is by no means a guarantee you will develop a dementia.

MYTH 7 - You cannot drive if you have dementia

A diagnosis of dementia does not result in an automatic driving ban, and many people continue to drive perfectly safely with a diagnosis of dementia. But legally, the DVLA and insurance company must be informed. The DVLA will then make a decision as to whether or not it is safe for a person to continue driving. They base this decision on the information the person provides, and may seek further information from a GP, consultant or specialist, and may ask the person to attend a driving assessment.

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