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10 Common Myths About Dementia

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If I have problems with memory I have dementia - FALSE

Everyone encounters situations where they forget details such as where they put their keys or the date and time of their next doctor's appointment. The difference between a 'memory slip' and a diagnosis of dementia is that dementia significantly impacts social and daily functioning. Memory slips may create problems for us but they are not as serious as the memory loss that comes with dementia.

People with dementia can't read - FALSE

The belief that people with dementia cannot read is a myth. Most people with dementia can still read, as long as they could read in the past. Many people with dementia don't read because the font is not in large enough for their aging eyes. Another consideration is that the reading materials may not be of interest or are too complicated for the person with dementia. Most of us are picky with the books and movies we watch and the person with dementia is no different. Ask the person to read words of different sizes (in an Arial or other non curly font) to determine how large the text needs to be and then select books that will be of interest to the reader and are within their range of abilities.

People with dementia are no longer able to do the things they used to enjoy - FALSE

Many people with dementia would enjoy doing some of the things they did in the past if the task was adapted for their abilities. If the task was broken down into smaller steps and/or memory cues were provided to support memory loss, the individual is more likely to do these things successfully. For example, someone who loved to bake in the past may no longer be able to manage a 14 ingredient cake recipe with multiple measuring cups and various bowls, but may be able to bake a 'cake in a mug' with one bowl and only three ingredients (available on our website www.dementiability.com). To ensure the person in your care is able to enjoy a variety of leisure activities, make sure that every activity is adapted to suit interests and abilities and ends in success.

People with dementia have no spared capacities- FALSE

There are many abilities that remain intact in the person with dementia, hence the name of our program -- DementiABILITY. It is vitally important to focus on these spared capabilities with the objective of keeping the individual engaged in life and living as long as possible. Disuse often leads to a decline that is not related to the dementia. The DementiAbility Methods focus on exposing spared abilities with the objective of helping individuals with dementia to be the best they can be.

It is important to correct the person with dementia when they say things that are not true - FALSE

The cardinal rule is "never argue with a person with dementia". A person with dementia is simply taking files from their memory bank that come from another place and time. They are sure they are telling the truth. This is called confabulation. People with dementia often make up answers when they can't recall the details they are seeking. Don't argue -- you won't win!

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People with dementia have no memories of the past - FALSE

Memory loss is considered to be the hallmark feature of dementia (although some forms of dementia do begin with a decline in judgment, and memory deficits appear later). The person with dementia often needs memory supports in place to help trigger the memories from the past and to support memory in the present (for finding locations and things and for doing things in the right order). Be sure to label photographs and use words and images to support memory in all aspects of life. The photos for days gone by can trigger other memories, thus opening the lines of communication.

People with dementia can't learn - FALSE

Some people with dementia become entirely reliant on a PSW (personal support worker) or caregiver to get them through the day. Some of this dependence could be reduced if memory supports were to be put in place. Memory supports and routines can trigger actions, such as assisting with finding locations and things and reminding them how to do things in the right order. In some circumstances, we have seen persons who were incontinent learn how to find the washroom and then learn how to toilet themselves independently by using step-by-step instructions beside the toilet (see our Memory Aids book). We encourage all providers of care to use environmental cueing supports to enhance the independence of those in their care.

There are very few things we can do to support a person with Dementia - FALSE

While there is no 'cure' for dementia, there are so many ways to prevent decline and even see noticeable improvements in disorientation, wandering and lack of engagement in daily life. The goal is to find out what a person is able to do and then adapt the activities and tasks of daily life according to what the person is interested in doing.

People with dementia don't need family to visit them once they are in a nursing home - FALSE

A diagnosis of dementia comes with many challenges but we must always remember that the person continues to have the same needs as you and I. The person who enjoyed travel, leisure and special moments with friends and family is still fundamentally the same person -- they just have new challenges to address each day. To support a person with dementia find a variety of things to do that adds joy to each day (for both of you) and provides opportunities for the person to love and be loved. There are many things to do that can add joy to each day.

When you give a person with dementia a doll you are treating that person like a child - FALSE

The focus of dementia care is on meeting the needs of each individual according to needs, interests, skills and abilities. The undeveloping brain is challenged in a world that is difficult to navigate. The need for love and human connection remains strong in dementia. Dolls can meet the needs of those who are lonely and who need to love and nurture. Dolls also offer something to do, thus addressing boredom. Check out our doll therapy guidelines at www.dementiability.com.

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