Dementia stigma is a real problem nowadays, and if you have a family member with this disease, you’re no doubt going through a very painful time.
Stigma is defined as a “mark of shame.” By steering clear of people with stigmatized diseases, such as AIDS, schizophrenia and even cancer, it’s as if we are trying to protect ourselves from “catching” their conditions. This stigma is now going on with the dementia disease — as more Americans experience severe cognitive decline. this makes it even more difficult for family members and caregivers.
Dementia Stigma: How To Fight It
The first thing to do is to be upfront and share accurate information. Offer information to help people better understand this disease. Provide links to educational programs and information packages. It’s a good start.
Next, it is important for your family who has dementia to stay engaged socially and be involved in activities. A support group is the perfect venue for this. You can find a support group in your area by contacting the
It is important to stay engaged in meaningful relationships and activities. Whether family, friends or a support group, a network is critical. Find an early-stage support group near you. Contact the Alzheimer’s Association — they will refer you to a support group in your area.
The Alzheimer’s Association also provided help to family and caregivers with advice on how to adjust to dementia disease.
Dementia Stigma: No Reason You Should Feel Guilty
Family and friends may feel shame at having a family member suffering from dementia. The perception of outsiders to dementia and Alzheimer’s is similar to our reactions to a friends’ or relatives cancer diagnosis 25 years ago: Fear. Yes, the fear of getting to close, lest we catch the malady, too.
Here’s the solution: Be open about it. Reach out and explain what the disease is and what it does to a person. There is no shame in that. Be forthright about negative and positive aspects of how care giving is going. This will go a long way to dissipate the fear and misconceptions about the disease.
Keep in mind that stigma thrives on ignorance and inexperience. Therefore, consider inviting a friend for a lunch-brunch with you and your impaired family member.
Many times, avoidance is just not knowing how to act. Seeing is understanding. Sometimes avoidance is simply due to a lack of understanding of how to act. During the time together, show your guest how you respond to awkward situations. It will become evident to your friend that your loved one is not crazy, only challenged.
One successful visit should get the ball rolling in a positive direction and decrease dementia stigma among your friends and acquaintences.