Several stereotypes have come to be associated with memory loss: the image of a person who is always confused, wanders alone, gets angry easily, or doesn’t even remember their name. Not only can these stereotypes be untrue, but they can also be hurtful to those living with memory loss and their families.
Even though memory loss is prevalent (about 40% of adults over 65 have memory impairments), it is still complex, unique, and, at times, challenging to understand. Because of this, people may be uninformed about the nuances of memory loss and believe these common misconceptions.
With memory care services throughout the Atlanta area, Brickmont Assisted Living understands the unique challenges associated with memory loss. We’re sharing some common misconceptions about memory impairments to better educate and challenge some of the negative stereotypes surrounding memory loss.
1. Memory Loss is a Normal Part of Aging
Truth: Forgetfulness can occur at any age; diagnosed memory loss is not a normal part of the aging process.
Since memory loss is so common, some people think that it’s an inevitable part of aging. However, if 40% of adults over 65 have memory impairments, 60% don’t. It is true that as we get older, we will have more memory slip-ups here and there—misplacing the remote, forgetting events from years ago, or having difficulty remembering new names. Still, these are all merely typical signs of aging and don’t interfere with a person’s daily life.
On the other hand, significant memory loss that severely impacts daily life, work, and other activities, is not to be expected with age. Misplacing the remote may not be serious, but forgetting what the remote is used for is. Having difficulty learning new names is common, but forgetting the names of your spouse or child is not.
2. Dementia Causes People to Forget Everything
Truth: Dementia and memory loss affect more than just memory and typically affect short-term memory more than long-term.
When many people think of someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s, they imagine someone who doesn’t remember anything—names, memories, events, words, etc. In reality, those living with dementia often have fewer long-term memory problems, especially in the early stages. This is why adults with memory loss can remember what they ate on their wedding day, but maybe not what they had for breakfast.
Also, the signs and symptoms of dementia or another memory impairment can vary from person to person—and they don’t always include forgetfulness. Sometimes, the symptoms of memory loss can consist of struggling to complete a familiar task or following along with a conversation.
3. Individuals with Memory Loss Don’t Understand What is Going On Around Them
Truth: People with dementia and memory loss can still communicate and understand.
For many, memory impairments can bring to mind someone who is unable to communicate and is unaware of what is going on around them. While it is true that in later stages of dementia, individuals may lose the ability to speak or communicate, that is not always the case.
In the beginning stages of memory loss, individuals can still understand what is going on, which is why it’s important to treat them with respect and dignity. Don’t talk about them as if they weren’t there, include them in decisions, and be patient when they struggle with words or phrases.
Another thing to keep in mind is that if someone eventually does lose their ability to communicate, they are still always able to understand smiles, gentle touches, and laughter.
4. Individuals with Memory Loss Are Always Angry, Suspicious, and Paranoid
Truth: Paranoia and aggression are often caused by some type of trigger and can usually be prevented.
It is true that sometimes individuals with memory loss, especially Alzheimer’s disease, can become confused and lash out—potentially throwing out accusatory or hurtful statements. Usually, this aggression results from the person feeling confused or frustrated; maybe something in their routine was disrupted, or the environment around them is overstimulating.
While this aggression and anger can be challenging to cope with, not every person with memory loss experiences these symptoms, and it certainly doesn’t reflect everyone living with memory impairments.
5. Memory Care Communities Are Stiff, Controlled, and Boring
Truth: Today, memory care services are stimulating, inviting, and engaging; their goal is to promote cognitive function in a safe environment.
Picturing any type of senior care community can conjure up images of a sterile environment with strict caregivers and unhappy residents. However, today’s senior living and memory care communities are quite the opposite. Memory care services, like those offered at Brickmont Assisted Living, are warm and welcoming neighborhoods designed to care for those living with memory loss and provide them with an engaging and interactive experience.
Understanding Memory Loss
There are a lot of negative misconceptions about memory loss and the individuals living with it. However, taking the time to understand why these stereotypes are untrue, you can better understand the challenges surrounding memory loss and help destigmatize this common concern.
Brickmont Assisted Living, with memory care services throughout the Atlanta area, including Milton, Woodstock, and John’s Creek, hopes that these facts and realities can help you and your family understand more about memory loss. For even more information on memory care or senior health, we invite you to visit our Brickmont Assisted Living blog.