20 September 2019
Dementia has been so widely talked about in recent years that you could be forgiven for thinking that stigma no longer exists. Yet given that the focus of this year’s World Alzheimer’s Month is on stigma and attitudes towards dementia, it is clear that around the world stigma still haunts people with dementia, leading to everything from delayed diagnosis to poor care and support post-diagnosis.
Challenging stigma through policy
The UK unfortunately isn’t immune to the stigma and discrimination that is associated with dementia. In the 2009 English Dementia Strategy combatting the stigma associated with dementia was considered the first priority:
“We need to ensure better knowledge about dementia and remove the stigma that sadly still surrounds it. The challenge of removing common misconceptions is crucial. Dementia is not a natural consequence of ageing and it is not true that nothing can be done for people with the condition . . . We must remove the stigma attached to dementia, which is similar in many ways to the stigma that cancer used to carry in the past.”
By the time the 2012 Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia was published, there was a major drive to create dementia-friendly communities. A key element of this was the launch of the Dementia Friends initiative in 2013 to help to combat the fear, misunderstanding and helplessness people feel in the face of dementia, and to enable individuals to feel more able to support a person with dementia within their family, neighbourhood or wider community.
Challenging stigma through Dementia Friends
At Promedica24 we are very supportive of Dementia Friends; many of our regional partners have become Dementia Friends, and we have encouraged our colleagues to undertake Dementia Champions training so that they can deliver Dementia Friends sessions within their communities, but we understand that more needs to be done.
We know that stigma towards people with dementia exists in many different forms. It can be personal, with friends or family distancing themselves from a person with dementia due to mistaken beliefs, or be more public, with strangers speaking or acting negatively towards a person with dementia or businesses and organisations stigmatising a person with dementia through their attitudes, policies or procedures. Some people are particularly at risk of stigmatising attitudes, including people from different ethnicities as our expert guest blogger, Beth Britton, explored in her recent blog for us on ethnic communities.
One of the great long-term hopes for eradicating the stigma associated with dementia is to educate children to enable them to become compassionate citizens, caregivers and family members of the future. But what more can be done now?
Ways to combat stigma
Listen to people living with dementia: If you don’t personally know someone living with dementia, resources like Dementia Diaries are fantastic at enabling everyone to understand more about what living with dementia is like from people living with dementia.
Volunteer, fundraise or donate: The Alzheimer’s Society and other charities who support people with dementia are always looking for volunteers to enable them to provide a wide range of services – what better way to meet more people living with dementia and understand first-hand what life is like for them? If volunteering isn’t for you, consider fundraising through a personal challenge or hosting a social event, or donating to an organisation that supports people living with dementia like Dementia Alliance International .
Become a Dementia Friend: Check out the Dementia Friends website to find a Dementia Friends session near you or to become a Dementia Friend online.
Read, understand and implement Dementia Language Guidelines: Stigma is often proliferated through language, so by understanding the guidelines that have been created by people living with dementia and implementing them whenever you are writing or speaking about dementia you can help to reduce stigma.
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