A Queensland University of Technology researcher has highlighted the need for better targeted education to overcome misconceptions about Alzheimer’s disease among members of the general public.
Karen Sullivan from the university’s School of Psychology and Counselling has been studying understandings of the condition for the past five years.
“I have looked at public perceptions of Alzheimer’s disease, as well as the perceptions of carers and the patients themselves, with the aim of determining what they know and what they think they know but may have wrong,” she said.
Dr Sullivan said most people knew that Alzheimer’s affected older people and involved memory loss.
Among the most common misconceptions was an under-estimation of the life expectancy of a patient diagnosed with the condition, along with a poor understanding of the causes of Alzheimer’s.
The study also found that patients and carers also had some inaccurate ideas about the condition.
“People did not know how to respond to wandering, which is a common symptom in patients, and they did not know how the diagnosis is confirmed,” said Dr Sullivan.
“Most thought Alzheimer’s could be diagnosed by mental status tests, but in reality it is a diagnosis of exclusion, whereby every other condition has been ruled out. Alzheimer’s can only be confirmed post-mortem.”