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Common Misconceptions About Dementia

Posted by Rachel Thompson on

When you hear that someone you're about to meet lives with dementia what's the first thing that comes to mind? Have you ever avoided social situations or distanced yourself from someone living with dementia because you just aren't sure how to connect with them anymore? Are you living with dementia and are frustrated by labelling from people who don't understand? If you answered yes to any of the above, this post is for you! Today we debunk common dementia misconceptions. 


They are a completely different person

When someone is diagnosed with dementia a common misconception is that their entire life changes. But that is not true! Although individuals living with dementia are experiencing a variety of changes, who they are at the core does not change.  Individuals with dementia will maintain the same interests, and may even reconnect with old pastimes. Marilyn always had a dog, and still enjoys petting her granddogs! 


Marilyn Thompson who lives with dementia, and her granddog Mia


They won't remember my visit so why even go 

I have heard this sentiment from family and friends who are struggling to adapt to the changes that come with a loved-one entering long-term care or dealing with memory issues at home. Although an individual with dementia might not remember the specifics of a visit, the time spent with them is important. Socialization contributes to the overall well-being of individuals living with dementia, so continue making those visits! All it takes is one laugh or smile to make it all worthwhile. If you are struggling with what to do during a visit try reading one of our books together, we guarantee it will be a good read!  

Marilyn Thompson, who lives with dementia, and her son Wendell Thompson


All individuals with dementia live in long-term care 

A common stereotype associated with dementia is that all individuals live in long-term care or assisted living. Even though many individuals will need to transition to assisted living during their dementia journey, most individuals continue to live at home for as long as they feel comfortable. 80% of individuals living with dementia still reside in their community. Communities are working to become more dementia-friendly by reducing common barriers like transportation and lack of education.


You can tell from looking at someone whether or not they have dementia 

 Individuals living with dementia look a lot like you and I. You cannot tell if someone has dementia just by looking at them, that's why it's important to become educated on how someone with dementia may present themselves so you can understand challenges, and support in appropriate ways. Some communities have created programs like the blue umbrella pin where individuals with dementia wear a blue dementia pin to identify themselves as living with dementia so they can receive support if needed. 

Mike belleville, who lives with dementia and his wife


No one understands what I'm going through 

At times care partners or persons with dementia may feel like they are going through this journey alone. Dementia can be challenging and brings up unique scenarios many families are navigating for the first time. Do not let yourself be isolated! Get connected with your local Alzheimer's society or community group to join one of the many support or awareness groups available and connect with people who are on similar journeys.   


Individuals living with dementia are "sad and confused"

Unfortunately, persons living with dementia are often portrayed in the media as being sad, isolated, and confused. It is true that individuals with dementia face a variety of new challenges, however, it is a misconception that everyone living with dementia faces memory challenges or is unhappy. There are many forms of dementia, and symptoms are not limited to memory loss. Behavioural changes and social anxiety are just some of the other symptoms an individual with dementia may live with. Despite these challenges individuals with dementia can live happy, fulfilling lives. Many individuals volunteer, are part of social groups and are activists for dementia awareness, all of which bring happiness and purpose.  


Marilyn Thompson who lives with dementia and her granddaughter Rachel


They will be completely dependent 

 A dementia diagnosis does not mean someone is automatically completely dependent on those around them. Many people living with dementia are able to maintain their ability to do familiar tasks such as self-care, cleaning and cooking. When there are changes in ability try modifying instead of stopping activities. Maybe the person with dementia in your life can no longer cook a full meal, but can they set the table? Could they stir ingredients or wash dishes? Supporting individuals with dementia in household contributions can help them feel purposeful, and make tasks easier and more enjoyable for everyone. 


"Our relationship is over" 

Individuals living with dementia have the capacity to engage in meaningful relationships. Communication is key when maintaining relationships so both individuals feel loved and supported. These relationships are rarely one-sided, as persons living with dementia have lots to contribute and share. Again, modification is important to ensure no one feels excluded. Every relationship grows and changes, with or without dementia challenges. Do what feels right for you, and enjoy the little moments! 

Ray and Marilyn Thompson dancing together at the long term care home.


What's a common misconception about dementia you've had or experienced? Leave us a comment below! 


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