Tuesday Tips for Caregivers – Debunking the Myths of Alzheimer’s Disease
Many people have a distinct fear of growing older, especially when it comes to the physical limitations they might start to encounter. Concerns about memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease contribute even more to these fears. However, having what is called a “senior moment”, when you forget where you left your keys or can’t recall the mailman’s name, is much different than Alzheimer’s disease, which is a degenerative brain disease causing physical changes to the brain.
Having the knowledge to debunk some of the biggest Alzheimer’s disease myths will help ease some of your concerns and can help you recognize what memory loss is part of the normal aging process.
Myth #1 – Memory loss is a normal part of aging.
Reality: As people age, it’s normal to have occasional memory problems, such as forgetting the name of a person you’ve recently met. However, Alzheimer’s is more than occasional memory loss. It’s a disease that causes brain cells to malfunction and ultimately die. When this happens, an individual may forget the name of a longtime friend or what roads to take to return to a home they’ve lived in for decades. It can be difficult to tell normal memory problems from memory problems that should be a cause for concern.
The Alzheimer’s Association has developed information to help you tell the difference. If you or a loved one has memory problems or other problems with thinking and learning that concern you, contact a physician. Sometimes the problems are caused by medication side effects, vitamin deficiencies or other conditions and can be reversed with treatment. The memory and thinking problems may also be caused by another type of dementia.
Myth #2 – Alzheimer’s disease is not fatal.
Reality: Alzheimer’s disease has no survivors. It destroys brain cells and causes memory changes, erratic behaviors and loss of body functions. It slowly and painfully takes away a person’s identity, ability to connect with others, think, eat, talk, walk and find his or her way home.
Myth #3 – Only older people can get Alzheimer’s.
Reality: Alzheimer’s can strike people in their 30s, 40s and even 50s. This is called younger-onset Alzheimer’s. It is estimated that there are more than 5 million people living with Alzheimer’s disease in the United States. This includes 5.2 million people age 65 and older and 200,000 people younger than age 65 with younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Myth #4 – Drinking out of aluminum cans or cooking with aluminum pots and pans can lead to Alzheimer’s disease.
Reality: During the 1960s and 1970s, aluminum emerged as a possible suspect in Alzheimer’s. This suspicion led to concern about exposure to aluminum through everyday sources such as pots and pans, beverage cans, antacids and antiperspirants. Since then, studies have failed to confirm any role for aluminum in causing Alzheimer’s. Experts today focus on other areas of research, and few believe that everyday sources of aluminum pose any threat.
Myth #5 – Aspartame causes memory loss.
Reality: This artificial sweetener, marketed under such brand names as Nutrasweet and Equal, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in all foods and beverages in 1996. Since approval, concerns about aspartame’s health effects have been raised. According to the FDA, as of May 2006, the agency had not been presented with any scientific evidence that would lead to change its conclusions on the safety of aspartame for most people. The agency says its conclusions are based on more than 100 laboratory and clinical studies.
Myth #6 – Flu shots increase risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Reality: A theory linking flu shots to a greatly increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease has been proposed by a U.S. doctor whose license was suspended by the South Carolina Board of Medical Examiners. Several mainstream studies link flu shots and other vaccinations to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease and overall better health.
- A Nov. 27, 2001, Canadian Medical Journal report suggests older adults who were vaccinated against diphtheria or tetanus, polio, and influenza seemed to have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease than those not receiving these vaccinations.
- A report in the Nov. 3, 2004, JAMA found that annual flu shots for older adults were associated with a reduced risk of death from all causes.
Myth #7 – Silver dental fillings increase risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Reality: According to the best available scientific evidence, there is no relationship between silver dental fillings and Alzheimer’s. The concern that there could be a link arose because “silver” fillings are made of an amalgam (mixture) that typically contains about 50 percent mercury, 35 percent silver and 15 percent tin. Mercury is a heavy metal that, in certain forms, is known to be toxic to the brain and other organs.
Myth #8 – There are treatments available to stop the progression of Alzheimer’s.
Reality: At this time, there is no treatment to cure, delay or stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. FDA-approved drugs temporarily slow worsening of symptoms for about 6 to 12 months, on average, for about half of the individuals who take them.
To speak with us ElderCare at Home
Feel free to call us at (888) 285-0093. Thanks for joining us for today’s Tuesday Tips for Caregivers and we’ll see you again next week!