The common belief that dementia is a normal part of the aging process is simply not true.
“It is a common misconception in society that it is something we should all expect and something that happens to almost everybody,” says Natalia Shtompel, PhD, MSW. “But it’s not the case.”
Dementia is not a normal part of aging, she says. It is a disease that is linked with neuropathology in the brain. It is not a condition itself, but rather a cluster of symptoms, says Shtompel, assistant professor at the School of Social Work at Barry University in Florida. She is also chairperson of NASW’s Aging Specialty Practice Section Committee.
She explains that dementia is an umbrella term that includes memory loss, the inability to pay attention, poor judgement, and personality changes. Shtompel shares her knowledge in the NASW Specialty Practice Sections (SPS) webinar, Gerontological Social Work: Behavioral Interventions for Clients with Dementia.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3 million adults over age 65 are diagnosed with dementia. This number is expected to rise to 14 million by 2060.
Another misconception is that dementia patients are typically cared for in institutions.
“What we know is about 80% of those with dementia are cared for at home,” Shtompel said. “A huge amount of burden falls on the caregivers.”
NASW members can log in and read the full story in NASW Social Work Advocates magazine.