Alzheimer’s disease is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that starts in a mild pace but ends up becoming severely aggressive. It leads to memory loss, loss of cognitive abilities and eventual death.
It is a poorly understood disorder, and there are no known treatments available to completely treat the patients. Its causes aren’t entirely understood by doctors either; it might arise from genes, head injuries, chronic stress and depression, and even hypertension. Life expectancy after prognosis reduces to 3-9 years.
In 2015, there were about 29.8 million people worldwide diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Because of its poor comprehension, various myths and stereotypes about people suffering from this disease abound. These however need to be debunked.
1. Only older people get Alzheimer’s
This is absolutely not the case. Yes, the most number of occurrences are amidst those who are above 65 years of age but people in their 40s and 50s can be diagnosed as well. There have also been cases of early onset Alzheimer’s in people in their 30s. Julianne Moore’s portrayal of an intellectual professor in Still Alice suffering from Alzheimer’s has greatly helped in understanding how people in their prime might be diagnosed.
2. It can be combated by using supplements
Unfortunately, there isn’t any scientific proof available that suggests using supplements and multi-vitamins can help combat this neurodegenerative disease.
3. It is equivalent to Dementia
Dementia refers to the broad term used to describe a category of brain diseases that affects memory and the ability to think. Meanwhile, Alzheimer’s makes up 50% to 70% of the cases of Dementia but there might be other diseases as well (for example Vascular Dementia and Frontotemporal Dementia). Thus, both aren’t equivalent diseases.
Alzheimer’s is a severe neurodegenerative disorder that results in loss of neurons and synapses in the cerebral cortex of the brain. However, just symptoms of memory loss are not an indication of Alzheimer’s because ageing results in memory troubles. However, if accompanied with loss of cognitive ability and communication, and disorientation, this could be a symptom and a medical professional should be consulted immediately.
5. It is like other psychiatric disorders
Unfortunately, unlike Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder which are examples of psychiatric disorders, Alzheimer’s is a mental disorder that causes neuro-cognitive damage. This leads to complete loss of cognitive functions and eventual death.
6. It is a normal part of ageing
No, it is not a normal part of healthy ageing. Not all old people have Alzheimer’s and not all patients suffering from the said disease are old.
7. There are treatments available
Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s does not have an effective treatment that helps patients recover from the disease. However, a good diet and healthy lifestyle can help slow the progression of the disease. There are medications, however, which work on certain people to temporarily slow down the symptoms but these cannot treat the conditions completely.
8. It is preventable
Yes, a healthy lifestyle prompted by good exercise and proper sleep cycle might delay the onset of the disease but there is no scientific evidence available that suggests it is entirely preventable.
9. It is hereditary
Having a parent or a sibling who has been diagnosed does increase the risk of the disease. This doesn’t mean that it will eventually lead to you getting it. The role of genetics in Alzheimer’s is still being tested by various scientists.
10. It causes sudden outbursts, anger and aggression
Different people have had different experiences with Alzheimer’s. It is a disease that causes disorientation and senility, and some people might respond by being aggressive and showing outbursts. It is, however, a myth that it results in every patient’s aggression. Every person’s mental health is different and psychosis cannot be stereotyped into similar symptoms for everyone. Some people might become even more reserved during their disease.
However difficult it is to be able to accept losing a loved one to Alzheimer’s, one needs to be respectful and not weary of the ones who suffer from it.
Yes, it is indeed a dark period, but there are good days and there are cheerful periods as well.
It is up to us to help create an environment of care and nourishment and nurture the ones who have to live with this.