Experts tackle myths about Alzheimer’s

It is common knowledge that Alzheimer’s disease robs people of their ability to remember, but other truths about the disease remain unknown. For instance, many people are unaware that Alzheimer’s is a fatal disease, its symptoms extend further than memory loss and that early diagnosis matters.

Pastor Mark Joneschiet was among caregivers raising funds and awareness on the Longest Day, a sunrise-to-sunset event held in Washington on June 20 to honor those facing Alzheimer’s disease with strength, heart and endurance.

“The big thing is trying to make people aware of the cause,” Mark said. “Almost every time I talk to someone, they’ll say, ‘Oh, yeah, I have an uncle with dementia’ or ‘I have a grandparent with Alzheimer’s.’ It’s just really affected a lot of life out there.”

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, greater understanding is urgently needed given the dramatic impact of the disease. Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States and the only cause of death among the top 10 that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed.

To improve the public’s understanding of the disease and to underscore the need for swift action, the Alzheimer’s Association is highlighting what it calls essential truths aimed at curbing common misconceptions about Alzheimer’s. They include:

  • Alzheimer’s disease is fatal – there are no survivors. From 2000 to 2013, the number of Alzheimer’s deaths increased 71 percent, while deaths from other major diseases decreased. More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, including more than 100,000 in Washington and northern Idaho.
  • Alzheimer’s disease is not normal aging. Alzheimer’s is a fatal and progressive disease that attacks the brain, killing nerve cells and tissue, affecting an individual’s ability to remember, think and plan.
  • Alzheimer’s is more than memory loss. Many believe the disease only manifests itself through memory loss, when it may appear through a variety of signs and symptoms. Experts from the Alzheimer’s Association have developed 10 key warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease that everyone should learn to recognize in themselves and others.
  • Alzheimer’s risks are higher among women, African-Americans and Hispanics. African-Americans are about twice as likely as whites to have Alzheimer’s or another dementia. Hispanics are about one and one-half times as likely. Additionally, more than two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease are women.
  • Early detection matters. More than 5 million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease, but only about half have been diagnosed. Additionally, less than half (45 percent) of seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or their caregivers are aware of the diagnosis.
  • Alzheimer’s cannot be prevented, but adopting healthy habits can reduce your risk of cognitive decline and contribute to brain health. Staying mentally active, engaging in regular physical activity and eating a healthy diet benefits your body and your brain. There is also some evidence people may benefit from staying socially engaged with friends, family and the community.
  • Alzheimer’s is the most expensive disease in the country. The total national cost of caring for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias are estimated at $236 billion a year. As the number of Americans with Alzheimer’s grows, the total annual payments for health care, long-term care and hospice care for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias are projected to increase to more than $1 trillion in 2050.
  • Caregiving can become anyone’s reality. The enormity of the Alzheimer’s crisis is felt not only by the more than five million people in the United States living with the disease today, but also by their more than 15 million caregivers, friends and family. According to the 2016 Alzheimer’s Association Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report, it is estimated that 250,000 children and young adults between ages 8 and 18 provide help to someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia. In addition, 23 percent of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia caregivers are “sandwich generation” caregivers — meaning that they care not only for an aging parent, but also for underage children.

The Alzheimer’s Association works with caregivers to enhance care and support for all who are affected by Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Resources and information are available through the Alzheimer’s Association’s website at and the 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900. The association provides assistance to more than 310,000 callers each year, offering translation services in more than 200 languages.