The Stigma Of Alzheimer’s: Tips For Dealing With The Uninformed

There are approximately 10 million people in the U.S. who are taking care of a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease. If you’re among the many who care for someone with Alzheimer’s, here are four ways to deal with the stigma attached to the disease.

1. Think of the Person Behind the Disease

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People with Alzheimer’s want to be recognized for their individuality, not just the disease. As a caregiver, one of your roles is to help uninformed observers see your loved one for the unique person she is.

Some senior living communities are already taking note. De Hogeweyk, an innovative dementia care facility outside of Amsterdam, is one such place. In an interview with APlaceforMom, De Hogeweyk’s facility manager outlined some key aspects of a program that honors the person behind the disease: living without locks, minimal medication, everyday routine tasks, socializing with people who have shared interests and the freedom to choose one’s own schedule.

2. Maintain a Sense of Humor

As described by the Family Caregiver Alliance, maintaining a sense of humor is imperative. It helps caregivers and others recognize the humanity behind Alzheimer’s, and people with the disease often retain their social skills and are excited to laugh along with you, so long as the joke isn’t at their expense. Bringing laughter into the situation also helps those who aren’t sure how to act around a person with dementia; it helps everyone let down their guard and share a happy moment.

3. Set a Positive Tone for Interaction

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Your attitude and body language communicate more than your words, so ensure that a positive tone is established with those around you and the person with Alzheimer’s. Speak to your loved one in a pleasant and respectful manner. Use physical touch, facial expressions and tone of voice to convey warmth and affection.

4. Step Out and Speak Up

A useful infographic is available at that outlines 7 effective ways to join the fight against the disease. Among them are: contacting your lawmakers in an effort to increase Alzheimer’s funding, and speaking up if you see the symptoms to help de-stigmatize the disease.

As we care for loved ones with impaired abilities, it is important to recognize the person behind the disease. Sometimes it takes a caregiver to shed light on the issue for this to be recognized.

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