Dementia is a complex and challenging condition, and those of us living with it deserve empathy, understanding, and respect.
Yet, all too often, we face harmful stereotypes that can lead to discrimination, isolation, and a reduced quality of life.
So I'll try to shed some light on a few of the most common stereotypes associated with dementia and explain why it's crucial to challenge and change them.
Hopefully, if you weren't aware already, by the end of this article, you'll have the knowledge and inspiration to get out there and CHALLENGE the lazy people who perpetuate these stereotypes. So, in no particular order, here are the stereotypes that REALLY get my goat.
"Dementia only affects the elderly"
One of the most prevalent stereotypes is the belief that dementia exclusively affects old people. "You don't look like you've got dementia", people often remark to me. While it is more common in older adults, dementia can also impact younger people.
Conditions like early-onset Alzheimer's can begin in people as young as their 30s or 40s. Stereotyping dementia as a condition only of the elderly can lead to a delay in diagnosis and support for younger people living with the disease. Please don't do it!
"People with dementia are just forgetful"
Dementia is much more than mere forgetfulness. It is a progressive neurological condition that affects memory, thinking, behaviour, and the ability to perform everyday activities.
Stereotyping us as simply forgetful trivialises the challenges we face and can hinder the provision of appropriate care and support we need.
And it’s a myth that dementia only affects memory.
I know that you are sometimes forgetful too, but my level of forgetfulness is on a whole different level. Don't compare yourself to me.
"Dementia means the end of a meaningful life"
Another harmful myth suggests that a diagnosis of dementia marks the end of a meaningful life. This belief couldn't be further from the truth.
People like me with dementia can and do continue to have fulfilling lives, engage in activities we enjoy, and form meaningful connections with others.
Stereotyping us as incapable or burdensome can lead to our social exclusion and emotional distress.
It perpetuates the myth.
"Dementia makes people violent and aggressive"
Dementia CAN sometimes lead to behavioural changes, but it is crucial to understand that not ALL people with dementia become violent or aggressive.
Such stereotypes can perpetuate fear and stigma, making it difficult for individuals with dementia to receive the care and support they need.
Myths can stigmatise.
"People with dementia aren't capable of making decisions"
Dementia DOES affect our cognitive abilities, but it doesn't mean we can’t make decisions about our own lives.
It's essential to respect our autonomy and involve us in decisions about our care and daily activities as much as possible.
Nothing about us without us.
Co-produce – Co-present.
"Dementia is just a normal part of ageing"
No, it isn't!
This myth minimises the impact of dementia on individuals and their families.
Dementia is a medical condition, not a natural part of the ageing process.
Stereotyping it as such can lead to a lack of awareness, research, and resources for those of us who are affected.
"Dementia is hopeless, so there's no point in providing support”
There is currently no cure for most types of dementia, but support and interventions can significantly improve the quality of our lives.
Stereotyping dementia as hopeless can lead to neglecting opportunities for enhancing our well-being and self-esteem, which keeps us independent.
"People with dementia can't contribute to society"
This stereotype disregards the skills, experiences, and wisdom that people with dementia can offer to our communities.
Many of us continue to make valuable contributions to society through advocacy, art, research and innovation or simply by being active members of our families and neighbourhoods.
My lifetime of skills and experience didn't suddenly vanish on the day of my diagnosis!
In conclusion, it's imperative to challenge and change the stereotypes associated with dementia. By doing so, we can create a more inclusive and compassionate society that provides better support and care for those of us living with this condition.
Dementia is a challenging journey, not only for us but also for our families, friends and communities. It is society's collective responsibility to ensure that we are treated with the dignity and respect we deserve, free from the harmful stereotypes that hinder our well-being. So please be a MYTHBUSTER and call out the old wives' tales of the ignorant and ill-informed. It is vital that we dispel the mythology that denies us a voice and the level of respect we deserve.