Dementia is a chronic health condition that gets worse over time, like congestive heart failure, cystic fibrosis or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
Perhaps because dementia affects the brain, there are myths and negative stereotypes about it. For example, some people think dementia is a normal part of aging. Others think people with dementia can't do anything for themselves.
The truth is that:
- Dementia is not a normal part of aging. People with possible signs of dementia should see a health professional as soon as possible.
- People with dementia can work, volunteer and be active in their community. They can make decisions and plans and live independently, until the later stages of the disease.
- It doesn't help to correct people with dementia all the time. A better approach is to respond positively to something they said, keeping in mind their likely meaning and feelings.
- The biggest risk factor for dementia is age. Most people with dementia are 65 or older. Younger people can have "early onset" dementia. If someone's parent had dementia, they have only a slightly higher chance of developing the disease themselves.
- There isn't a cure for dementia yet. However, exercising, eating well, singing, learning new skills and socializing can help people with dementia be healthier and happier.
There are no proven ways to prevent, delay or slow the course of dementia. There are promising possibilities, including:
- Cognitive training, computer programs and other activities to build reasoning, problem solving, quick thinking and memory skills
- Blood pressure management, for people with high blood pressure
- Increased physical activity, due to some diseases being the result of neglected physical health
More research is needed to find out what can help, at what stage of dementia, and how much effort or time is needed to make a difference.