Why should everyone in the world raise their dementia-awareness? Across our country and around the world there is a lack of awareness, creating harmful myths surrounding dementia, thereby resulting in stigmatization, barriers to diagnosis and care, and negatively impacting caregivers, families and societies-physically, psychologically and economically. It's, therefore, essential that we “bust” these myths for everyone, from doctors and professional caregivers to friends, neighbors and community members become more “dementia-aware”.
1. Dementia is not a natural part of aging
It's true that you become more at risk for having a cause of dementia after you reach the age of seventy, but loss of normal brain function (dementia symptoms) must have a cause-or diagnosis. And there are over one hundred different causes-normal aging is not one of them!
2. Dementia symptoms are always brought on by diseases, brain trauma or illnesses of the brain
Dementia is the name for an extensive collection of symptoms that include memory loss, mood changes and problems with communication, processing of information and reasoning. These symptoms are produced by a number of diseases, illnesses or brain trauma events that predominantly initiate permanent and progressive changes in the brain. The leading cause of loss of normal brain function and dementia symptoms is Alzheimer's disease, which changes the chemistry and structure of the brain over time causing the brain cells to die.
3. It's not just about losing your memory
People often think of dementia only as memory loss. Although many causes of dementia start by affecting the individual’s normal brain function of accessing short-term memory, some causes do not affect memory at all! The distressing truth is, it's much more complicated than that– often altering the way people think, speak, perceive and process the world around them, forever changing how they feel and behave.
4. It is possible to enjoy a quality of life with dementia
Even as dementia progresses, many people lead active lives, continue their hobbies, and enjoy loving friendships and relationships. Dementia does make it harder to do certain things, but with the right knowledge and support (becoming dementia-aware), and appropriate training for professionals, it’s possible for someone with dementia to continue to enjoy life.
5. There's much more to a person than just their dementia symptoms
The inspirational people I work with who have dementia symptoms, professional and family caregivers, and dementia-aware individuals living or working with dementia sufferers are living proof that life doesn't end when dementia begins. When someone is diagnosed, plans for the future might change and they more than likely will need more help and support to keep doing the things they enjoy - but dementia doesn't change who they are.
Reading my book, A Loving Approach to Dementia Care will positively transform everyone’s perception of dementia, raising awareness, busting myths and empowering all to better understand, communicate and care for the dementia sufferer, as well as those who tirelessly care for them.
Laura Wayman holds an associate in arts degree in gerontology and is a certified Social Services Designee. She has over a decade of experience in and a strong dedication to quality aging. She is a professional dementia care consultant; the CEO of The Dementia Whisperers; and a sought-after speaker on dementia and issues of aging. The second edition of her book, A Loving Approach to Dementia Care: Making Meaningful Connections with the Person Who Has Alzheimer's Disease or Other Dementia or Memory Loss, is available now.