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World Alzheimer’s Day: Lessening the Stigma of Dementia

September 21 is World Alzheimer’s Day, which helps to raise awareness of this devastating disease and its effects on so many lives. But for families who are living with Alzheimer’s disease, every day is Alzheimer’s Day. Whether or not our awareness needs raising, we look forward together to a day when this terrible disease has been defeated, when there are no more Alzheimer’s patients, and no need for Alzheimer’s caregivers. Until then, those who suffer from the disease and those who care for them share a bond across the globe. We share constructive and compassionate advice to help us through this battle, which we wage one day at a time, and we share the kind of understanding that can only come through lived experience.

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Every 66 seconds someone is diagnosed with the disease. Worldwide, more than 50 million people are living with Alzheimer’s. It is a cruel, progressive disease that impairs memory and other cognitive functions so seriously that it interferes with the daily life not just of the patient, but of everyone in the family.

All diseases take something away from the person who suffers from them. A disease might deprive you of the ability to walk or even to rest comfortably. But there is something fundamental about dementia, which takes away your ability to remember your own life, or sometimes even to recognize the people you love. Alzheimer’s, more than almost any other disease, seems to affect the very core of the person.

Raising awareness of the realities of Alzheimer’s has many benefits. First, with raised awareness comes a greater commitment to find a cure for this shattering disease. But until we reach that goal, World Alzheimer’s Day is also a plea for the removal of the stigma of dementia, which is a further attack on the very humanity of those who suffer from it. Stigmas against Alzheimer’s discourage people who are living with the disease, or caring for someone who has it, from asking for the help and support they need—or even, sometimes, from recognizing themselves the legitimacy of the needs they have. Stigmas stop people from talking about their experiences, which means others lose the opportunity to benefit from their wisdom. Stigmas lead to embarrassment that causes isolation. And most of all, stigmas cause discomfort and fear.

This year, for World Alzheimer’s Day, let us focus on raising awareness of the harm that stigmas surrounding Alzheimer’s disease cause, both to those who suffer from dementia and those who care for those who suffer. Let us resolve to speak candidly and openly to others about our struggles, whether our community consists of a small group of friends and relatives or we have a more public platform. Until we find a cure, lessening the stigma that comes with dementia will reduce the isolation, for both patients and their caregivers, that comes with Alzheimer’s disease.

 

 

Alzheimer’s, more than almost any other disease, seems to affect the very core of the person.

 


 

 


 


 

 

Written by, Terry Moore on Sep. 15, 2020
Terry Moore

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