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Has someone you love recently been diagnosed with dementia? Undoubtedly, the reality of coming to terms with such a diagnosis is stressful. Dementia is the general term to describe the loss of memory, problem-solving skills, and other cognitive skills that are severe enough to impact a person’s daily life. Whether it’s vascular dementia, mixed dementia, or an illness such as Alzheimer’s disease, you’re about to open a new chapter in your life.
While it will be challenging, you’ll discover emotional and physical strengths you didn’t even know you had as you face obstacles head-on, embracing your inner wisdom and courage. You’ll learn to value the kindness and compassion of others and of yourself.
Unfortunately, there are people out there who don’t understand the complexities of dementia or its full, damaging effects. Many people stigmatise those who are afflicted with dementia because they don’t know the whole story. It’s similar to people who judge individuals with mental illnesses – such as depression or anxiety – and pigeonhole them into one category because of their mental health. The truth is, having a mental illness or dementia doesn’t define anybody. It’s merely another unique component of an individual’s personality.
If your loved one faces stigma because of dementia, here’s what you can do to mitigate the situation.
Identify the stigma
You’re aware that there are a few individuals out there who don’t seem to understand that dementia is a complicated and severe condition, affecting millions of people. But how do you know when someone stigmatises the disease? There are a few signs to look for in a person’s demeanour, including:
- A blatant lack of knowledge about dementia
- Negative language
- Off-handed jokes and belittlement
- Demonstrating a lack of patience
It’s important to note that even someone living with dementia can carry stigma about the disease. Is your loved one exhibiting self-deprecating language? They might feel ashamed and use that as a coping mechanism.
Meet with compassion
If someone gives a crude remark about your loved one’s condition while out for a walk, your first reaction might be to give that person a piece of your mind – and loudly, without mincing any words. I wouldn’t blame you. It’s difficult to understand others who appear to lack empathy for other people. However, if you meet this person with compassion, you might teach them a thing or two about dementia. Briefly inform them about the disease and how common it is among the ageing population. Once they know more about it, they might refrain from judging others in the future.
Finding the right dementia care is critical. With home nursing care, your friend or relative can receive healthcare right at home, learning strategic coping mechanisms from expert healthcare professionals. You’ll feel less alone as you embrace this new time in your life with a home healthcare worker by your side.
The most important thing to remember is to educate yourself on dementia and all that it entails. When you’re able to advocate for people with the disease, more people will listen and want to learn more. Hopefully, by encouraging education and compassion, stigma will soon be a thing of the past.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the founder of Psychreg.