Myth: Consistent memory loss is a normal part of aging
Fact: It is common for people to have occasional memory problems as they age, such as forgetting the name of recent acquaintances or where you set the keys. However, Alzheimer’s disease is much more than occasional memory lapses. Alzheimer’s disease causes brain cells to malfunction and eventually die, which results in memory loss, personality changes and loss of physical faculties.
It can be difficult at first to discern what is normal memory loss and what is something more serious so it is good to track symptoms as clearly as possible. Often, the earliest sign of Alzheimer’s is forgetting recently learned information. Other signs include: lapses in problem-solving skills, difficulty completing familiar tasks and confusion with time or place.
Slideshow: 10 Signs of Alzheimer’s disease
Occasional memory loss can be a sign of a serious illness like a brain tumor, but it more likely means you need to make a to-do list and go to bed earlier.
Myth: Alzheimer’s and dementia are the same condition
Fact: The terms dementia and Alzheimer’s are often used interchangeably when they should not be. Dementia is any kind of loss in cognitive function from any cause. Alzheimer’s is a specific type of dementia caused by unique abnormalities in the brain that result in specific symptoms. Other types of dementia include vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, dementia associated with Parkinson’s disease, and dementia associated with drug or alcohol abuse, to name a few.
Myth: Only older people can get Alzheimer’s disease.
Fact: While it is more common for Alzheimer’s to present itself in an older demographic, it also can affect people in their 50s, 40s and even 30s. According to the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2012 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report, approximately 200,000 people under age of 65 are living with Alzheimer’s disease in the United States. This is known as younger-onset or early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Myth: Alzheimer’s disease is not costly to treat
Fact: Alzheimer’s has an extremely high monetary cost and psychological cost to both the patient and the caregiver. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 15 million family members and other unpaid caregivers provided approximately 17.4 billion hours of care to people with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. In 2011, those hours added up to $210 billion in unpaid caregiving costs.
A person with Alzheimer’s disease costs Medicare three times as much as a person without Alzheimer’s, and in 2012, health care, long-term care and hospice services for people over 65 with Alzheimer’s is expected to cost $200 billion, not including the contributions of unpaid caregivers.