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Answers to common questions about dementia

Eight Commonly asked questions about Dementia

Thanks to increased awareness and the hard work of organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association, Americans are more attuned to the need to better understand dementia and to educate themselves, their families, and others as we work together to fight to find a cure for Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

That said, myths and incorrect information continues to proliferate the internet and other media streams which can make it challenging to get accurate answers to the many questions that come to mind when faced with a family member or friend who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Below is a list of some of the most common questions asked about dementia with answers to help augment your own research efforts. We have compiled them from several sources, including The Alzheimer’s Association, The National Institute on Aging, and Yale Medicine, as well as our own Anthem Memory Care professionals.

  1. Is dementia just another term for Alzheimer’s disease?

No. There are many forms of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is, however, the most common, accounting for 60-80% of all diagnoses. To help families and caregivers understand the different types of dementia, Dr. Tam Cummings, gerontologist and dementia expert, has an excellent presentation which you can access here.

  1. What causes dementia?

One of the most common risk factors is age. After age 65 an individual’s risk for Alzheimer’s disease doubles every five years. Women are also more likely to get Alzheimer’s disease than men, although the reason for his is not yet clear. Other potential factors include experiencing a severe head injury or chronic heart issues which may restrict blood flow to the brain. 

  1. What are the early signs of dementia?

This will change depending on the type of dementia that a person has but the most frequently you will notice issues with memory, especially short-term recall. You may also notice lapses in judgement and temperament and other behavior changes. Because these symptoms are often attributed to “getting older” they may be ignored which is why Stage One of Alzheimer’s disease often goes undiagnosed.

  1. If my mom or dad got dementia, will I get it as well?

Not necessarily. Dementia is not known to be commonly linked through genetics except in the case of “familial Alzheimer’s”, where there is a genetic link. This, however, only accounts for about 5% of all diagnoses.

  1. How is dementia diagnosed?

Diagnosis of dementia and the specific type of dementia that a person has requires a battery of tests and observations. Only a doctor or other qualified healthcare professional can make a definitive diagnosis. It is important to note that Medicare will cover testing and there are many benefits to being tested early.

  1. How does dementia affect the brain?

This depends, in most cases, on the type of dementia. For instance, Alzheimer’s disease begins when amyloid proteins form in the brain. These deposits begin to create what is referred to as tau tangles. These tangles inhibit the brain synapses from connecting and transmitting vital information that connects an individual to memory or, in later stages, to motor and other bodily functions. More details on how the brain works are available from The Alzheimer’s Association.

  1. Is dementia fatal?

Unfortunately, yes it is. But we have great hope for tomorrow. Research continues to drive innovation and there is much reason to hope that the day will come when dementia can be controlled and even reversed. You can read more about dementia research on The Alzheimer’s Association website.

  1. How can I keep from developing dementia?

While there is no definitive way to avoid developing dementia, there are things you can do to keep your brain stimulated and your body as healthy as possible for as long as possible. A healthy diet, exercise, and regular social engagement are all known to boost wellbeing and maintain stronger cognitive levels.

Have more questions?

Of course you do. And, fortunately, there is an abundance of resources available to dig deeper and to answer additional questions you have and help guide you on your information journey.

Start by visiting our “Resources” page for links to educational webinars and educational articles.  

And feel free to reach out to any of our Anthem Memory Care communities for additional information and resources. We’re here to help!