With more than 55 million people currently living with dementia, it is a far-reaching issue that impacts the lives of many, including those living with dementia, their caregivers and the entire community around them. In addition to the medical, social and political constructions of dementia, it’s important to consider this impact on society as it directly relates to the quality of life of those living with dementia.
Considering how society understands the causes of dementia is so important because it can have a domino effect on the sentiments toward the people living with these symptoms. For example, caregiving can sometimes bring up comforting feelings or, on the other hand, feelings of dread. These feelings can extend to the way people are treated and, unfortunately, result in unkindness or judgement because of the stigma surrounding it.
Diving a little bit deeper, these thoughts and feelings toward dementia often come from a family’s collective views and even personal experiences such as having a grandparent with dementia or growing up repeatedly hearing someone referred to as “crazy” or “mad.” Because of this, the person living with symptoms may hold negative views about themselves, putting them in a negative frame of mind. More often than not, these thoughts are based in a deep-rooted fear of aging and the misunderstanding that dementia is only an aging disease.
For better or worse, many people’s thoughts and feelings surrounding dementia are also shaped by what they see in the media. This includes documentaries, movies and advertising campaigns. Many times, people with dementia are inaccurately portrayed because of a lack of dementia awareness behind the scenes. On the positive side, media can sometimes be a powerful tool in impacting positive representation by sharing resources and showing caregivers in uplifting ways. This has can have a ripple effect that opens the minds of many, sometimes impacting larger efforts like legislation or fundraising.
When we begin to change the stigma surrounding dementia, we can begin to improve the outcomes of care and, most importantly, the quality of life for those living with symptoms. While society has made big strides in improving these things, it can be daunting to infiltrate these stigmas that are so ingrained in our lives, whether we realize it or not. The unfortunate reality is that, due to the increasing numbers of daily diagnoses, the societal views surrounding dementia will certainly impact you at some point in your life, if not already.
Increased understanding and raising dementia awareness about the many causes and symptoms of dementia, the political agenda to reduce the economic burden of dementia and changes to policy around care all work toward reducing the stigma of dementia. Together, we can expedite these efforts. I invite and encourage you to join me in my “I Am Dementia Aware” campaign because, together, we can make a big difference in the lives of individuals with any cause of dementia symptoms.