The challenges of having dementia or caring for someone with the disease seem difficult enough, but there is also a stigma surrounding dementia and Alzheimer's disease that many seniors and caregivers are trying to overcome.
The challenges of having dementia or caring for someone with the disease seem difficult enough, but there is also a stigma surrounding dementia and Alzheimer's disease that many seniors and caregivers are trying to overcome. A recent report found that 75 percent of people with dementia and 64 percent of caregivers feel there are negative perceptions of people with the disease in their countries.
The data, which comes from a survey by Alzheimer's Disease International, was published in the World Alzheimer's Report 2012: Overcoming the Stigma of Dementia just in time for Alzheimer's Action Day on September 21. The day was part of World Alzheimer's Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness of the disease in order to fight for a cure to the disease, which currently has no cure.
"The report reveals that people with dementia and their care partners often feel disconnected from society, and sometimes even by their own friends and family members," said Beth Kallmyer, MSW, Vice President of Constituent Services at the Alzheimer’s Association. "The misconceptions and stigma create unnecessary barriers to progress such as improving care and support services and increasing funding for research."
About one in four survey respondents with dementia believe their thoughts and opinions would be "discounted or dismissed" if they are open with their diagnosis. These individuals also felt they would be treated more positively if they kept their diagnosis hidden. In fact, 40 percent of people with dementia in the survey said they have been avoided or treated differently because of their diagnosis of dementia.
However difficult the stigma may be to overcome, the Alzheimer's Association's Early-Stage Advisors shares tips on how to cope with these negative perceptions, based on their own personal experiences. One way to face the stigma is to be open and direct about a diagnosis, taking it as an opportunity to explain the need for prevention, better treatment and a cure, the organization reports. It is also important that individuals with the disease state the facts in order to dispel misconceptions and myths about the disease, and help people better understand what a diagnosis actually means.
These tips may help individuals stay connected with friends and family members and engaged in their communities, which is critical, the organization reports. Having a support network is important for individuals who have dementia and those providing Alzheimer's care.