No matter how much you read or hear about Alzheimer’s disease, it can be difficult to recognize the signs in your own parent or grandparent. And, it’s understandable why. Some people feel that Alzheimer’s is a death sentence. With enough stress as it is, it becomes easier to brush the early signs under the rug or attribute them to old age. But, coming to terms with the fact that your loved one may have Alzheimer’s will only help them in the long run.

Let’s take a look at five common myths about Alzheimer’s – and the truth behind them.

1.     Memory loss is a normal part of aging.

As we get older, it’s natural to be more forgetful in certain ways. Even at a young age we can be forgetful, not being able to remember the name of someone we just met or what time our doctor’s appointment was scheduled. Alzheimer’s is different than occasional forgetfulness, however. The disease causes the brain cells to malfunction and die, so the memory loss will start to affect daily life, planning, solving problems and completing tasks.

2.     Alzheimer’s may be progressive, but it’s not fatal.

Alzheimer’s destroys brain cells. Before it kills each cell, it causes memory problems, erratic behavior and loss of body functions. Eventually, people with Alzheimer’s can no longer walk, talk, eat, think or connect with others. Alzheimer’s has no survivors. It is progressive and eventually results in death.

3.     Only elderly people can get Alzheimer’s.

Although the risk of the disease rises with age, it is not limited to older adults only. People in their 30s, 40s and 50s can develop early-onset Alzheimer’s. Currently, there are 200,000 people younger than age 65 living with Alzheimer’s disease, according to ALZ.org. Therefore, if someone young is showing signs of the disease, they should see a doctor instead of writing off the symptoms.

4.     Alzheimer’s disease is caused by exposure to chemicals found in aluminum, aspartame, flu shots and dental fillings.

Alzheimer’s is a frightening disease, so it’s only natural for people to want to know what causes it. Aluminum, aspartame, flu shots and dental fillings have all been studied in relation to Alzheimer’s and memory loss. To date, there is no scientific evidence that proves these factors raise the risk of the disease. In fact, flu shots lead to better overall health and a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s, according to research. At this time, we don’t know exactly what causes Alzheimer’s. We do know that age and genetic background play a role.

5.     Medications are not available to treat Alzheimer’s. 

Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s is not curable and there is no treatment available to slow or stop the progression of the disease. However, there are some FDA-approved medications that are used to slow the onset of symptoms, which is wonderful news for the many people facing Alzheimer’s. About half of the individuals who take them see a slower worsening of the symptoms for about 6-12 months.

As many families are caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s know, Alzheimer’s is a difficult disease process. It is important to remember that there is hope in many forms, including medication, support groups, caregiver assistance and pastoral care. There are many people available to help; don’t be afraid to ask.