Memory Mondays: How to Fight the Stigma of Alzheimer’s Disease

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The stigma of Alzheimer’s disease remains a chief concern for those living with this and other forms of dementia, along with their caregivers. Even as research sheds light on the reality of the disease, and as more people are diagnosed with memory impairment, negative connotations continue to exist.

Yet the stigma of Alzheimer’s disease can have a significant impact on society as a whole. Not only does this stigma reduce the quality of life for those with dementia and their families, but it also may prevent people from seeking medical treatment for symptoms or receiving an early diagnosis. Some challenges associated with stereotypes around Alzheimer’s are:

– Friends withdrawing, leaving a feeling of isolation

– Family members avoiding interaction

– Perception that those with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia have little to no quality of life

Overcoming the Stigma of Alzheimer’s Disease

There are many ways to overcome the stigma of Alzheimer’s disease, including but not limited to:

– Swap phrases: The way people speak contributes tremendously to the perception of Alzheimer’s disease, and can also play a huge role in reducing the stigma associated with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Rather than calling someone a sundowner, for example, refer instead to a person who is restless later in the day. Instead of referring to their health center as a locked unit, consider the term memory care neighborhood or community.

– Share the facts: Sharing the facts about Alzheimer’s disease will help people to better understand it, and therefore quell misconceptions.

– Stay connected: Meaningful relationships and activities remain important with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. This may mean staying involved with family and friends, or it could entail joining a support group.

– Stay positive: Negative responses and thoughts from others do not reflect on the person with Alzheimer’s. Don’t get discouraged. There’s no shame in having Alzheimer’s disease.

Overcoming the stigma of Alzheimer’s disease won’t happen overnight. But as people come to better understand dementia, then the lives of those with the disease, their caregivers and their loved ones will certainly benefit.

“If we can change the way people look at dementia and talk about it, we can make a big difference in people’s lives,” Philippa Tree, who leads a Dementia Friends program in England and Wales, told Kaiser Health News.