Standing Tall Against the Stigma of Dementia

We fear Alzheimer’s. We fear becoming the stereotypical dementia patient: slumped in a wheelchair, staring out the window, our minds as blank as our gaze.From this fear, a powerful and pervasive stigma is born. A stigma fueled by a lack of legitimate knowledge about the realities of the disease. A stigma with a crippling ripple effect that contributes to the isolation of those with Alzheimer’s and their families. Even long time friends can vanish when an individual is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. They may feel uncomfortable in the presence of a personwith cognitive impairment, they may not know what to say, or be worried that they might do something to upset them. This abandonment, benign or not, can take a toll on family caregivers:

My ‘friends’ have pretty much disappeared. No phone calls, not even an email. It’s a lonely life. Now that Mama lives with me, I have to initiate gatherings with my friends—they seldom call me anymore.”Friends are hard to find, or they act like they don’t even know me—it’s as if my entire life is a stigma and they don’t want tobe seen with me.”These are the typical laments of family members of those with Alzheimer’s; and the situation is no less frustrating for those diagnosed with the disease.

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