The stigma associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias often prevents open discussion of the symptoms.
Sometimes friends and family will not believe the diagnosis. Sometimes they avoid the person with dementia because they believe that nothing can be done, or they dismiss symptoms as “just a normal part of old age.” But dementia is NOT a normal part of aging, and treatment can be given to manage symptoms or slow progression of the disease.
The negative language often used to describe Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias tends to focus on the illness and reduces people with the disease to a series of labels, symptoms or medical terms. 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.
Person-centred language helps tackle the fear and stigma surrounding Alzheimer’s and other dementias. The Alzheimer Society has developed common language guidelines as a tool for anyone who lives with, supports or cares about a person living with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia.
Comments from people connected with the Alzheimer Society of Canada echo each other's in a desire to be treated the same, despite their disease. Some of these comments are listed below:
- Take the stigma away.
We are still the same people.
The general public needs to know more about Alzheimer's disease; once a person has Alzheimer's disease, it doesn't mean you push them off.
You are the same person. I am the same person.
The more you talk about Alzheimer's disease to people, the better it is.
Years ago, you never mentioned Alzheimer's disease.
I don't want negative things (words) thrown at me.
I haven't told [many] people and...one of my doctors said "don't [tell people]" because the more people who know, the more [I'm] put in a position of being on guard all the time. If you know the person [you're speaking to] knows you have Alzheimer's disease, then [you become] very careful of how you talk and...of what you say.
Rethink your approach to Alzheimer’s – read this article by Judith Timson that appeared in the Globe and Mail.
For more information, contact your local Alzheimer Society.
Last Updated: 09/11/12