Contrary to popular belief, memory problems and cognitive decline are not a normal part of ageing. In fact, Alzheimer’s Disease and various forms of dementia are different for every person who suffers from them.
The misconception that memory loss is something that every family faces as their elderly relatives go through the final stages of life leads to dangerous misunderstandings about how cognitive impairments affect families, neighbors, and friends.
For example, a family living with Alzheimer’s Disease must remain positive and work toward maximizing their quality of life day by day to prevent their situation from being emotionally, financially, and physically devastating. Misconceptions can work against a family coping with the reality of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Fear of judgement prevents individuals from sharing their struggles with Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s Disease is misunderstood, and as a result, individuals living with it tend to withdraw from friends and extended social networks as the burden of symptoms become more obvious. Families struggle to balance their own health and well-being with the needs of their loved one struggling with memory loss and cognitive impairment.
Creating an environment where a person with dementia can continue to safely and happily enjoy their life is a huge responsibility, and to undertake it alone because of fear of judgement adds another layer of sadness to the situation.
Society must reframe Alzheimer’s Disease for the good of everyone
The language we use that communicates a purely negative image of Alzheimer’s Disease does nothing to strengthen and support families who are supporting an affected person. Neighbors, friends, and community members of people living with this disease must reach out to people with Alzheimer’s Disease in spite of their fears and misconceptions.
Compassion is the best cure for a lack of education and experience. People living with this disease are still fully human and want to be included, loved, cared for, and valued. Loss, grief, and frustration are all normal parts of a family’s journey through the many and varied stages of Alzheimer’s Disease, but they shouldn’t be the focus.
Defying stereotypes and stigmas help families to avoid falling victim to a self-fulfilling prophecy. In spite of increased challenges, remaining actively engaged in familiar social circles is great medicine for a person living with Alzheimer’s Disease. It’s a great cure for society’s misconceptions, as well.