Stigma against dementia


Stigma is one of the biggest barriers for people living with dementia to live fully with dignity and respect. Help us fight stigma by learning more about its effects and taking steps to reduce its impact.

What is stigma against dementia?

  • Stigma against dementia encompasses any negative attitude or discriminatory behaviour against people living with dementia, just on the basis of having the disease.
  • When a disease is as prevalent as dementia, yet still poorly understood, it's easy for false beliefs to spread. Left unchallenged, these beliefs perpetuate stigmatizing attitudes against people living with dementia, reducing their quality of life.
  • These attitudes extend to the families and caregivers of people living with dementia, affecting them as well.
  • The unfortunate reality is that any person living with dementia is very likely to encounter stigma – even though dementia can affect anyone. No one is immune to the risks of dementia, and there is no cure or treatment that can guarantee prevention.
  • People living with dementia did not choose to have this disease, and they certainly don't appreciate being labelled and ignored, among other negative responses, due to their diagnosis.

Learn about the myths and realities of dementia.

Stigma takes many forms

There are many ways that stigma can negatively impact the lives of people living with dementia, their families and their caregivers:

  • Lack of awareness about dementia
  • Harmful and misleading assumptions
  • Negative language
  • Belittlement and jokes
  • No support after diagnosis
  • Stigma by association
  • Loss of self-worth

What does stigma against dementia look like?

People living with dementia are experiencing stigma right now

Even though more than half a million Canadians live with dementia, many feel excluded, ignored and treated differently for something beyond their control.

If you know a person living with dementia, chances are they've experienced discrimination that they wouldn't have faced if they didn't have dementia.

Sadly, while most Canadians acknowledge that dementia is a serious disease, and that people living with dementia are likely to experience discrimination, attitudes that reinforce stigma against dementia are still common.

Learn more about how Canadians perceive dementia.

Together, we can fight the impact of stigma

Positive change starts with learning. When you know the facts behind dementia, you will be able to challenge assumptions and false beliefs when they appear. By sharing your knowledge, you can reduce the negative impact of stigma against people living with dementia, families and caregivers.

Click the link below to learn about direct action you can take to fight stigma against dementia, or keep scrolling down to learn more about the many initiatives that are reducing stigma against dementia in Canada.

10 easy ways to fight stigma against dementia.

People living with dementia are sharing their experiences with stigma

There is perhaps no better way to know what stigma is than to listen to the people who have experienced it firsthand.

Every January, the Alzheimer Society supports Alzheimer's Awareness Month. We encourage you to visit to read the stories of people living with dementia, families and caregivers. Let them help you understand what it's like to live with dementia and face stigma.

Learn about Alzheimer's Awareness Month.

Canada needs to do more to fight stigma

Stigma doesn't just happen on a personal level – negative attitudes and discriminatory behaviours can be reinforced on a systemic level, too.

That's why it's important that Canadians support the first-ever national dementia strategy, which will take concrete action to eliminate stigma and support dementia-friendly communities throughout the country.

An effective, fully-funded strategy will also improve standards of care for people living with dementia. This is especially vital for people living with dementia receiving support and treatment in hospitals and long-term care homes.

Learn more about Canada's national dementia strategy.

People living with dementia have a right to be free from discrimination

The Alzheimer Society worked with people living with dementia to launch the first-ever Canadian Charter of Rights for People with Dementia.

Among the seven explicit rights of the Charter, the first right is the right to to be free from discrimination of any kind.

Learn more about the Canadian Charter of Rights for People with Dementia.

We need to build a dementia-friendly Canada now

People living with dementia want to live as well as possible and participate in their communities – but stigma often remains a barrier. You can help remove this barrier by helping your community become dementia-friendly.

Dementia-Friendly Canada is an initiative that will create tools, education and programming that will allow for the development of dementia-friendly communities across the Canada.

Learn about Dementia-Friendly Canada.

More useful links and resources

How can we include people with dementia in our community? Freedem Films, 2013. If you have been diagnosed with dementia you need a community that is inclusive, understanding and friendly. This video was created by Dr. Sabina Brennan of Trinity College Dublin and Trinity Brain Health. Permission to use this video was granted by Trinity Brain Health, which reserves all rights.

Jim's Story - Dementia Friendly Communities. City of Vancouver, September 29 2015. The City of Vancouver is working in partnership with the Alzheimer Society to build inclusive dementia-friendly communities. Jim Mann, who has been living with dementia for eight years, shares his experience.

World Alzheimer Report 2012: Overcoming the stigma of dementia. Alzheimer's Disease International (ADI). This global-focused report highlights ten key recommendations to overcome the stigma of dementia. It also shares results from a global survey on stigma conducted with people living with dementia and caregivers.

How Canadians perceive dementia

Many Canadians acknowledge that people living with dementia regularly experience many forms of stigma. But there is still more work to be done to reduce stigma. Understand the results from our most recent Awareness Survey.

Learn more

Myths and realities of dementia

Myths and misconceptions about Alzheimer's disease and dementia abound – what it is, who gets it, and how it affects the people who have it. These myths stand in the way of understanding the disease and helping those affected.

Learn more

Canada's national dementia strategy

On June 17, 2019, the Government of Canada released the country’s first-ever national dementia strategy: A Dementia Strategy for Canada: Together We Aspire. On this page, learn more about the strategy, what it means for Canadians and why it needs to be fully funded.

Learn more
Your guide to Canada's national dementia strategy.

Dementia-Friendly Canada

By the end of the decade, almost one million Canadians will live with dementia. The impact of dementia is and will continue to be felt across all borders, sectors and cultures. We must act and build a dementia-friendly Canada now.

Learn more
Retail worker having a happy conversation with a senior couple.