Dementia stigma to blame

Dementia stigma to blame.

Photo: Dementia stigma to blame. (Source: Shutterstock)

An international report released today has found one quarter of people with dementia and one in 10 carers have admitted to hiding their diagnosis from others because of the stigma attached to the condition.

The report’s release coincides with World Alzheimer’s Day held today.

The Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) report also finds 75% of people with dementia feel there are negative associations with their condition aimed towards them, and 40% claim they are a victim of stigma due to their diagnosis.

The report identifies education, information and awareness as priorities to reduce the stigma of dementia, and highlights the need for governments worldwide to implement national dementia plans to increase research into how to address the issue of stigma.

Ita Buttrose, national president of Alzheimer’s Australia, says the “disturbing findings” in the ADI report are consistent with recent Australian studies.

“Stigma can impact severely on the quality of life of people with dementia, their carers and families,” she says.

“A person with dementia is still a person first and foremost and they deserve to be treated with respect like everybody else.

“We all have a responsibility to work towards a society that is dementia friendly, and the best way to do this is to support friends and family living with dementia.”

Glenn Rees, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Australia, adds Australia has a “long way to go” to combat the stigma associated with dementia. The new report also makes important recommendations about how to overcome stigma.

“As well as a national awareness campaign, we need to look at funding programs, such as leisure and access activities that recognise the retained abilities of people with dementia,” Mr Rees says.

“The government’s commitment to tackle dementia through the Living Longer. Living Better aged care reform package is a good start, but we all need to work harder at making sure people with dementia, their families and carers are not marginalised; that people with dementia are empowered to self advocate and they are supported appropriately to help them live with dementia while enjoying the best quality of life possible.”

More than half of those surveyed in an Australian pilot study – conducted by the University of Wollongong, in collaboration with Alzheimer’s Australia – believed people with dementia were unable to have meaningful conversations. More than a third said people with dementia could be irritating and one in 10 stated they would avoid spending time with a person with dementia if they had a choice.

Alzheimer's Australia NSW Inc