To this day there are still so many misconceptions on dementia. These may be due outdated knowledge, old hypotheses, or simply misinformation. But what are the most common misconceptions?
A 2014 study wanted to find out why there still are so many misconceptions when it comes to dementia in America today, and what are the 10 most common ones.
The researchers write that the reasons for misconceptions may be multiple. There certainly still is an element of folk knowledge, although not too widespread. Some beliefs stemming from folk models of knowledge may be, for example, thinking that AD is caused by “evil spirits” or represent punishment from supernatural or higher powers. This conceptualization of AD may cause delayed care and could potentially result in dangerous and harmful practices, for example exorcisms.
Other misconceptions have to do with what the best practices are when it comes to dementia care and managing symptoms. For example, some caregivers may think that the best solution for wandering behaviours is to lock the person living with dementia into a room, to prevent wandering in the first place. Some other people think that reminders, calendars, or daily planners are ineffective, thus depriving the person living with dementia of means to live independently.
Many have misconceptions about how AD has an impact on society at large, and the authors bring forward the example of beliefs concerning the ability of people living dementia to drive, who could potentially be cause of danger for society at large.
Quite obviously, there are still a lot of misconceptions regarding AD as a normal part of aging, and not an abnormality. If people believe that AD is simply “growing old” they may delay treatment, or not seek it altogether.
As for the 10 most common misconceptions, the authors were able to identify the following, in descending order;
- Reminder notes are ineffective;
- Mental exercise is always effective;
- It is useful to remind a person with AD that he or she is repeating him or herself;
- People with AD most commonly live in nursing homes;
- Eating food cooked in aluminium pots cause dementia;
- Medications are effective in stopping dementia progression;
- Dementia is a normal part of aging;
- There are cases where people living with AD fully recover;
- Individuals with AD are unable to make informed decisions for themselves;
- There are prescription medicines effective in preventing AD.
The most surprising, and possibly worrying aspect that the authors found out, was no statistically significant difference in misconception between health care professionals and those who were not health care professionals, except for believing or not AD to be a normal part of aging.
Clearly many misconceptions still exist. By education people, carers, and healthcare professionals, we can only hope to achieve better results in dementia care in the future.
Lowe, D., A., et al. (2014), Misconceptions of Alzheimer’s Disease, in “Clinical Gerontologist”, 38(2), pp. 149-156.