As we continue the goal of changing the perception of dementia and how it impacts the people we love, these are a few of the necessary steps to be taken:
1. Taking legal action is a must when a person is diagnosed with a mental illness, such as dementia. Provisions of guardianship, powers of attorney, and advance directives are just some of the ways we can protect a person who is incapable of taking personal action. However, the wishes and goals of the diagnosed person should be the first considerations, when possible. This will be possible if there is an early diagnosis, appropriate care available, and support given to those closely impacted by the diagnosis. IF, these steps are achieved, the one diagnosed will more than likely be able to express their personal feelings and wishes as to how life proceeds.
2. As the gap to erase the stigma of dementia is reaching closure, people with dementia and their families should be encouraged and empowered to speak up about their life with this disease. The sharing of emotions, social experiences and hopes and fears will not only impact the diagnosed person’s self-worth, but it will surely aid in the research and evaluation of how to end this devastating illness.
3. There is a great need to improve the process of diagnosing dementia, enhance the quality of treatment and care and provide quality support for both the diagnosed individual and the caregiver and other family and friends. This multi-disciplinary community approach is vital in ensuring quality of life for ALL impacted by the diagnosis of dementia.
In conclusion, as a country and as a community, we must provide high quality services when diagnosing and caring for people with dementia and their caregivers. In order to achieve the delivery of these services, the government (local, state and federal) is charged with the task of changing policy as related to the latest in research and medication and providing information pertinent to improving the quality of life deserved by all who suffer with dementia. Finally, without a doubt or reservation, we must encourage people with dementia and their families to stand up and speak up, to show they are NOT afraid and NOT ashamed. They are human beings with needs and desires, and above all, the right to have a life of respect, good health care and lots of love.
Alzheimer’s Stigma: Part Three of A Four Part Series