January is Alzheimer's Awareness Month. During these 31 days, the Alzheimer societies make great efforts to raise awareness among the population. Despite the significant increase of diagnoses and the popularity of the subject in the media, discrimination and stigma towards people with the disease and their loved ones remains a problem.
Statistics on stigmatization
A survey conducted in 2017 reveals that "Canadians acknowledge that people living with dementia regularly experience many forms of stigma". The sick ones are likely to be ignored or dismissed, feared, taken advantage of or have difficulty accessing appropriate services. According to survey respondents, people who suffer from dementia experience more discrimination than people with physical health problems.
Despite their awareness of the stigmatization, many of the respondents admitted using stigmatizing terms. In fact, 51% of Canadians employ an offensive form of language by making jokes about Alzheimer's or by calling them senile, crazy or insane.
Prejudice and discrimination can prevent Alzheimer's patient and their loved ones from talking openly or seeking help in reducing their quality of life and becoming a daily obstacle. That's why, even today, awareness towards Alzheimer remains a major issue.
Discrimination lived and told
According to Naomi's testimony, the young woman has prevented herself from going out with her mother who has the disease because people are often impatient, not very empathetic and lack understanding. According to the previous study, one in five caregivers agrees that they sometimes feel embarrassed to be seen in public with the person they care for.
But, a person suffering from dementia is still a human being and deserves all the respect. Following the diagnosis, those loved ones do not change and always need friendship, love and support. Despite what one may believe, they still need to feel appreciated, to maintain a certain autonomy and to have some responsibilities.
Citizens must develop empathy and stop making judgments. Dementia affects thousands of people. A patient needs to be cared for by a family member, both physically and psychologically.
Fifteen years from now, nearly one million Canadians will be affected by cognitive diseases. By making Canada an inclusive country and ending judgments and stigmas, our society will be better prepared for this major increase.