As of June 2016, an estimated 564,000 Canadians are living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, yet people with the illness often feel excluded or treated differently.
Stereotypes or misinformation can intimidate friends and family. Some believe that nothing can be done, or dismiss symptoms as “just a normal part of old age.”
Negative language is often used to describe Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. The wording tends to focus on the illness and reduces people with the disease to a series of labels, symptoms or medical terms.
It is important to be aware that negative reactions from friends, family and professionals can impact a person’s well-being and ability to manage the changes brought about by the disease.
Where do you stand? Test your attitude. Our quiz offers six scenarios and asks how you would handle the situation. There is no right or wrong answer, but your responses may surprise you.
Be a stigma buster
Stigma not only hurts people with the disease but also discourages their families from confiding in others or getting the support they need.
You can help reduce stigma.
Here are six easy ways you can make a difference:
- Learn the facts. Share your knowledge about dementia with others, including family and friends, especially if you hear something that isn’t true. Talking about dementia lessens our fear and increases understanding.
- Don’t make assumptions. Dementia is a progressive disease and affects each person differently. A diagnosis doesn’t mean the person will have to stop his daily routine or give up working right away.
- Watch your language. Do you use statements like “she’s losing her marbles,” or “he has old-timer’s disease?” Don't make light of dementia. We don’t tolerate racial jokes, yet dementia jokes are common.
- Treat people with dementia with respect and dignity. A person’s ability to do things we take for granted will change as the disease progresses. But no matter what stage of the disease, she’s still the person she always was, with unique abilities and needs. Appreciate who she is. Don’t talk around her or avoid her at family and social gatherings.
- Be a friend. People with dementia don’t want to lose their friends nor do they want to stop doing activities they enjoy. Be supportive. Stay in touch and connected. Social activity helps slow the progression of the disease and lets people with dementia know you care.
- Speak up! Don’t stand for media stereotypes that perpetuate stigma and myths. Call or write your local radio or television station or newspaper. Media is a powerful force in affecting how we act and think.
If you have been diagnosed with dementia you need a community that is inclusive, understanding and friendly. Watch the video How can we include people with dementia in our community?
The material was created by TCD, through the NEIL Programme at the Institute of Neuroscience with support from GENIO.
© 2014 The Provost, Fellows, Foundations Scholars, and the Other Members of Board, of the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity Of Queen Elizabeth, near Dublin. Permission to use this material was granted by TCD which reserves all rights in the material.
Communities across Canada are working to build inclusive, dementia-friendly communities. Jim Mann, who has been living with dementia for eight years, shares his experience in Vancouver: