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Published on: August 3, 2015
by The New Orleans Advocate:
It is difficult for people to talk about a disease that is impacting 1 in 9 adults over the age of 65 and 50 percent of people over age 85. The stigma associated with Alzheimer’s disease has a significant negative impact on the lives of people with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. A 2012 report from Alzheimer ’s Disease International stated that three-quarters of those with dementia and two-thirds of caregivers said that others perceive those with Alzheimer’s or dementia negatively.
Negative public images and stereotypes associated with Alzheimer’s often contribute to the lack of engagement and socialization with individuals experiencing the illness. Additionally, the fear of being “outcast” or abandoned by friends and relatives can cause withdrawal of the affected individual.
Many misconceptions of Alzheimer’s perpetrate fear. It is widely believed that Alzheimer’s and dementia are a normal part of aging, but this is not true.
It’s also believed that all individuals with Alzheimer’s get violent or aggressive, though these behavioral expressions typically erupt out of fear, confusion or inability to express a need. It’s also thought that the disease prevents the individual from meaningful activities or enjoying relationships.
Such mistaken beliefs further the stigma attached to Alzheimer’s disease. Stigma associated with the disease often prevents individuals from seeking medical treatment, receiving an early diagnosis or looking at treatment options.
The stigma is only going to be reduced through education and being proactive. By being open and direct about an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, by seeking support services and by engaging family and friends, people would perhaps become more comfortable using the word.
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