Educating Others About Alzheimer’s Disease Can Help to Erase the Stigma

Educating Others About Alzheimer’s Disease Can Help to Erase the Stigma
Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative condition that affects almost 6 million people in the United States. People with the disease experience mental decline, and symptoms include memory loss — but that's not the only forfeiture. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia. However, despite its prevalence, some families treat the disease as a secret; they evade the topic, even as symptoms begin to appear.

The great cover-up

Many people treat cognitive disorders as if they are something of which they should be ashamed. Some people with dementia and their family members keep their disease a secret even after diagnosis. Playing it close to the vest, they devise ways to avoid letting on that Mom or Dad has Alzheimer’s disease. Keeping it hidden from friends and extended family, making excuses for an occasional faux pas, they throw off would-be inquisitors.

Stigma

What if other diseases had the same degree of stigma attached to them as Alzheimer’s disease does? Imagine if heart disease patients were fearful of revealing their illness. Family members aren’t ashamed of loved ones who have cognitive disorders. They merely want to protect them from the stigma attached to their condition. Their fear is understandable. They worry about the shift that will eventually take place. They're concerned that people will treat their loved one differently; that a small mistake or a slip of the tongue will be analyzed and attributed to the loss that will inevitably become part of their life. A caregiver’s reluctance to reveal a diagnosis won’t keep the disease at
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2 comments

  1. —-Educating Others About Alzheimer’s Disease Can Help to Erase the Stigma

    I beg your pardon! There is no stigma. It is an illness, please respect it as you would respect any other illness.

    • Ray Burow says:

      Agreed, Mr. Maio. People who have been diagnosed with dementia shouldn’t be judged by their condition, any more than a person with heart disease is judged by theirs. However, stigmatization occurs when family members and caregivers avoid discussing an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, preferring to keep it a secret as if it’s something of which to be ashamed. Talking about it with trusted friends and family members is an option that keeps the conversation alive and quells judgmentalism, particularily in the early stages of the disease when functionality remains high.

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