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September 16, 2022 Is dementia a normal part of aging? Is it inevitable?

Myths and questions about dementia can make aging feel scary and uncontrollable. Part of creating a future where everyone can Fear No AgeTM at Baycrest is busting these myths.

Read on to learn the reality behind five common dementia myths, in support of World Alzheimer’s Awareness Day on September 21.


Myth:
Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are an inevitable part of aging.

Reality:
“All in all, our research shows that you have the power to decrease your risk of cognitive decline and dementia,” says Dr. Annalise LaPlume, Postdoctoral Fellow at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute.
While not every factor is modifiable, the sooner someone starts taking steps to slow their cognitive decline, the better their odds of avoiding dementia. These steps can even be a bit of fun, like staying socially connected, regular exercise and eating healthy.

Ready to take your first steps? Read our 15 tips here: https://www.baycrest.org/Baycrest-Pages/News-Media/News/Research/15-Things-You-Can-Do-Now-To-Reduce-Your-Risk-of-De
 

Myth:
Alzheimer’s and dementia only impact those who are very old.

Reality:
According to the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada, young onset dementia accounts for an estimated 2 to 8 per cent of all dementia cases. Young onset refers to anyone with a diagnosis under the age of 65.

Those affected by young onset have unique needs that are not always served by traditional dementia programs.

“For example, music programs for a geriatric program play music from the 1940s, but this group of individuals wanted 70s and 80s music, like the Rolling Stones or Billy Joel.” Elaine Kohn, a Baycrest social worker, explains the logic behind a recent pilot project targeting this group. Learn more here: https://www.baycrest.org/Baycrest-Pages/News-Media/News/Research/Supporting-couples-with-young-onset-dementia
 

Myth:
Everyone forgets things as they get older, it’s just a part of aging.

Reality:
Some age-related memory challenges are normal and manageable, others are a sign of cognitive decline and dementia. Baycrest’s Memory and Aging Program was created to help older adults learn the difference between what’s normal and what’s worrisome. After learning which changes are typical, the program helps older adults optimize their ability to learn and remember what is important.

Learn more about this program at Baycrest.org/memory

Secondly, Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute has found that older adults might not be forgetting information, they might be storing too much information with those memories. Read more here: https://www.baycrest.org/Baycrest-Pages/News-Media/News/Research/Older-adults-store-too-much-information-in-their-b


Myth:
Alzheimer’s and dementia are only memory loss.

Reality:
Dementia and Alzheimer’s frequently impact the parts of the brain responsible for how people learn, think, and communicate. This can lead to changes in personality, behavior and emotional responses. The risk of people with dementia developing behavioural or psychological symptoms is between 50 and 90 per cent. These symptoms can include wandering, hoarding, agitation, depression and aggressive behaviours.

These changes can make things difficult for caregivers, who can see their loved one become someone very different from who they were. Caregivers can find support for this, and other challenges, in the Health Information Portal: https://www.baycrest.org/Baycrest/Health-Wellness/Health-Wellness-Information/Educational-Resources/Responsive-Behaviours/Caregiver-support/Managing-behaviour-changes
 

Myth:
It’s too late to prevent dementia

Reality:
It’s never too late to make lifestyle changes that reduce the risk of dementia.

“During mid-life (between the ages of 45-65), the lifestyle risk factors for dementia are cardiovascular and hearing loss and during late-life (65 and older), the risk factors are physical inactivity, social withdrawal and depression,” says Dr. Nicole Anderson, a senior scientist at Baycrest and a clinical neuropsychologist.

The soon-to-open Kimel Family Centre for Brain Health and Wellness targets these risk factors, integrating brain health, physical fitness, nutrition and social engagement for the aging population. This includes community wellness programming, specialized clinics and integrated research to prevent and treat cognitive decline. All combining clinical care and research. Read more here: https://www.baycrestfoundation.org/Why-Give/Our-Stories/BrainMatters/Brain-Research