A type of brain disorder, Alzheimer’s disease impacts more than 6 million Americans. Signs of the condition may start gradually, such as forgetting recent events or conversations. Over time, symptoms may escalate to memory loss, poor judgment, difficulty problem-solving, and mood changes, among other challenges. To aid in the early detection and intervention of Alzheimer’s disease, it’s essential to separate fact from fiction.
Here are five of the most common misconceptions about Alzheimer’s disease:
- Alzheimer’s only affects memory. As the disease advances, Alzheimer’s can cause difficulties with language, such as finding the right word, understanding what words mean, or being sensitive to the tone and loudness of other people’s voices. As the disease advances, it can also negatively affect one’s abilities for decision-making, problem solving, reading, writing, and math.
- Only elderly individuals can develop Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is most common in older adults, but it can affect people in their 30s or 40s, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. When someone develops the disorder before age 65, it’s referred to as “early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.” Most often, individuals with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease are in their 40s and 50s. Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, some evidence indicates that early detection may lead to better treatment options.
- If an aging adult is forgetful, they have Alzheimer’s disease. Temporarily misplacing something, forgetting the day of the week and recalling it later, or missing one bill are not necessarily signs of Alzheimer’s disease. However, regularly losing things and being unable to retrace steps to find them, losing track of the season, or the inability to manage a budget might be. Sometimes, it can be difficult for a loved one to assess what’s normal and what’s not. As such, it’s important to seek an assessment from a designated memory disorder clinic in your state.
- Alzheimer’s is solely a genetic disease. Individuals who have a parent or sibling with Alzheimer’s disease have an increased risk of developing it. However, it doesn’t definitively mean that they will. Additionally, an individual can be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s even if there is no family history of the disease. Genetics does play a role, but there are many other contributing elements to developing Alzheimer’s disease, including environmental factors, lifestyle choices, and other complex interactions.
- There is no treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. Several prescription drugs have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to aid in symptom management. Clinical trials also play a critical role in advancing Alzheimer’s disease treatment. At the forefront of this research is the Frank C. and Lynn Scaduto MIND Institute at Miami Jewish Health, which specializes in early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and is spearheading clinical research trials for newly developing treatments.
If you notice memory loss or behavioral changes in yourself or a loved one, don’t panic. Age-related cognitive changes should be evaluated and monitored, but do not always indicate that a person has Alzheimer’s disease. There may be causes of these changes that can be treated to improve, slow, or stabilize symptoms. At the end of the day, knowing the diagnosis at an early stage and getting the right level of support will yield the best outcomes.
To schedule a clinical assessment and learn more about treatment options for Alzheimer’s disease, call MIND Institute at 305.514.8710.