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

Ray Burow avatar

by Ray Burow |

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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.


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 bay, but it might buy some time before friends begin judging the behavior of the person with Alzheimer’s. However, it’s better to educate friends and family members about the different stages of the disease, than to avoid talking about it altogether.

Lifting the veil

Lifting the veil on cognitive disorders will help to reduce the stigma. The more friends and family understand the stages of Alzheimer’s, the less likely they are to misjudge a person who has the disease.

The experience of a person in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease will differ from that of someone who is in the later stages. The disease unfolds gradually, and signs may be barely noticeable at first.

The three primary stages of Alzheimer’s disease are mild, moderate, and severe. Each person’s progression will differ and worsen over time. The Alzheimer’s Association has detailed information describing these stages.

Caregivers need a community of informed individuals to support them and to help to reduce the stigma around Alzheimer’s disease.


Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s Disease.


Harold A Maio avatar

Harold A Maio

----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 avatar

Ray Burow

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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