Alzheimer’s disease is a scary diagnosis, but educating yourself about the disease can help give patients and their family members a better understanding of the road ahead. With all the information available about Alzheimer’s it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction. The following are some common myths about Alzheimer’s disease, along with the facts behind them:
MYTH: Mom can’t have Alzheimer’s—she remembers all kinds of things.
Alzheimer’s disease affects newly learned information or recent memories first. Memories of the more distant past—including arcane details such as names and places—may endure for some time. The majority of longer-held memories don’t typically erode noticeably until the middle stages of the disease. That’s why someone recently diagnosed can often recall things in the past quite well.
MYTH: Alzheimer’s only affects the elderly.
It is true that the vast majority of people with Alzheimer’s disease are older than 65, including half of all people older than 85. In fact, according to the National Institute on Aging, for each five-year span beyond 65, the percentage of people with the disease doubles. But a particularly rare form of the disease, early-onset Alzheimer’s, can affect adults as young as their 30s, although most commonly it affects adults in their 50s. Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease accounts for only between 5 and 10 percent of the more than 4.5 million Americans with Alzheimer’s.
MYTH: Most people with Alzheimer’s are oblivious to their symptoms.
Typically someone in the early stage of Alzheimer’s disease does realize, at least part of the time, that something is wrong. Most people with the disorder are aware that they’re experiencing memory lapses, for example, or that they’re starting to have trouble doing certain familiar tasks (ex. following a favorite card game, cooking a particular recipe). Insight varies by individual, and the degree of awareness can shift from day to day. As the disease progresses and symptoms worsen, awareness of the situation is likely to decline.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, know that Visiting Angels of the San Francisco Bay area is here to help. Our experienced caregivers can help guide you through the myths surrounding the disease and provide the highest quality in-home care. For more information on how Visiting Angels can help, contact us in Alameda County at (510) 284-0000 or in Santa Clara County at (408) 735-0977.