Dementia is derived from Latin and literally translates into “mind gone,” (de means “gone” while mens refers to “mind”). The most common cause of dementia, accounting for at least 60% of all dementia cases, is Alzheimer’s disease.
In dementia (and Alzheimer’s disease), the affected individual goes through a progressive and inexorable decline in mental abilities. The effects may be subtle in the early stages, but in the final phases the damage to the brain will have become so pervasive that the individual undergoes a near-total change in personality and becomes totally dependent on other people. Dementia is the result of brain disorder, where the brain’s nerve cells are diseased. In Alzheimer’s disease, the nerve cells get entangled and slowly wither away.
Misunderstanding of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia may cloud one’s expectations. Here are some of them.
Misbelief: Early diagnosis and treatment can reverse the disease.
Reality: The progressive deterioration of the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia is irreversible and cannot be cured. Early diagnosis and treatment can only help to provide some relief and give those involved enough time to plan for future needs.
Misbelief: The disease causes rapid loss of communication ability.
Reality: Generally, the progress of the disease is gradual and the individual concerned will lose spoken language skills slowly. In early stages, there will be difficulty remembering names of objects and expressing thoughts. A rapid deterioration in language skills may be due to some other causes. It is only severely progressed dementia that can lead to loss of the ability to speak.
Misbelief: The disease is a normal part of the aging process.
Reality: Some memory loss is expected due to aging. People in their 60s cannot be expected to be as sharp memory-wise as they were in their 20s. This sort of memory loss does not make people unable to carry out their daily routines or induce radical changes in behavior and personality.
But the significant memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is not due to aging. Excessively poor memory cannot be considered normal. Only about one in five aged people develops dementia, while four others do not.
Misbelief Alzheimer’s disease is genetically inherited.
Reality: It is a misconception to think idea that Alzheimer’s disease is genetically inherited. In fact, only 5% of Alzheimer’s—early onset disease, generally before the age of 65—can be passed from one generation to another. In 95% of Alzheimer’s disease cases, however, the disease is not genetically inherited.