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Alzheimer's myths busted: Experts reveal the six most common misconceptions patients have


Six of the most common misconceptions asked by people facing Alzheimer’s disease have been revealed. 

Worrying they will have to stop driving, give up work, and will have memory problems right away are among patients’ top concerns.

People also fear they will be treated differently by family and friends, someone else will have to manage their money and they will become unable to make decisions.

Experts worry people are being put off seeing a doctor because they’re so worried about how their life will change.

But they reassure patients many can live normal lives with Alzheimer’s disease and getting diagnosed sooner will make it easier to treat the brain condition.  

Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for between 60 and 70 per cent of the approximately 50 million cases around the world

Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for between 60 and 70 per cent of the approximately 50 million cases around the world

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for between 60 and 70 per cent of the approximately 50 million cases around the world

Dementia UK has revealed what their helpline nurses are most often asked about to mark World Alzheimer’s Day today, Friday September 21. 

A staggering 50 million people around the world have dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of the brain condition.

There are around 850,000 Brits living with dementia, as well as 5.7 million Americans and 342,000 Australians.

Between 60 and 70 per cent of people with dementia are thought to be Alzheimer’s patients.

The disease worsens over time and is caused by a build-up of proteins in the brain which damages connections between nerves, killing off parts of the organ.

However, the disease is not an immediate decline and people can live normal lives for years after their diagnosis, experts say.

Dementia UK nurses run a helpline and have revealed people’s most common fears when they’re diagnosed are:

  1. They must stop driving immediately
  2. Having to give up work
  3. Being treated differently by family and friends
  4. Immediately losing the ability to make decisions
  5. Needing someone else to manage their money
  6. Having memory problems

But Paul Edwards, clinical director of the charity, reassures people these misconceptions are not true and an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is not the end of the road.

He said: ‘There is a lot of fear and uncertainty about Alzheimer’s disease.

WHAT IS ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE? 

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative disease of the brain, in which build-up of abnormal proteins causes nerve cells to die.

This disrupts the transmitters that carry messages, and causes the brain to shrink. 

More than 5 million people suffer from the disease in the US, where it is the 6th leading cause of death.

WHAT HAPPENS?

As brain cells die, the functions they provide are lost. 

That includes memory, orientation and the ability to think and reason. 

The progress of the disease is slow and gradual. 

On average, patients live five to seven years after diagnosis, but some may live for ten to 15 years.

EARLY SYMPTOMS:

  • Loss of short-term memory
  • Disorientation
  • Behavioral changes
  • Mood swings
  • Difficulties dealing with money or making a phone call 

LATER SYMPTOMS:

  • Severe memory loss, forgetting close family members, familiar objects or places
  • Becoming anxious and frustrated over inability to make sense of the world, leading to aggressive behavior 
  • Eventually lose ability to walk
  • May have problems eating 
  • The majority will eventually need 24-hour care   

 Source: Alzheimer’s Association

‘Many people actually put off getting a diagnosis because they are worried about having to immediately give up work or stop driving.

‘But every diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is as different as the person who receives it.

‘Many people are able to continue working, driving and living full and productive lives after a diagnosis.

‘Indeed, getting that diagnosis means getting the advice from your GP and access to the specialist support which can enable people with dementia to retain their independence for as long as possible.’

Depending on when someone is diagnosed, it can take as long as 20 years for Alzheimer’s disease to progress to dementia.

Symptoms in the early stage of the disease may begin as struggling to remember someone’s name or misplacing objects.

But people at this stage of the condition may still be able to drive and carry on with their day-to-day lives.

Alzheimer’s disease progresses to dementia, which is a degeneration of the brain and worsens over time, eventually proving fatal.

Dementia causes memory loss, reduced thinking speed and understanding, and difficulties with movement and carrying out daily activities. 

The UK Government’s Minister of State for Care, Caroline Dinenage MP, said countries around the world must work together to tackle the illness.

She told the Alzheimer’s Society today: ‘The statistics around dementia are shocking.

‘It is now one of the leading causes of death and disability internationally, with an annual economic cost of more than US $1 trillion. 

‘Every three seconds someone in the world develops dementia – we don’t have a second to lose when it comes to getting it right for all people living with dementia and their families. 

‘What is clear is that no country can face the dementia crisis alone, and designing adequate, affordable and sustainable care for people with dementia is a necessity for every government.’



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