The 21st of September every year is dedicated to raising awareness and challenging the stigma of Alzheimer’s disease. World Alzheimer’s Day is an international campaign when organizations all around the world make an effort to reach out to more people and families who may or may not have the first-hand experience with Alzheimer’s disease.
It is a group of disorders that impair the mental functioning of the brain. It is associated with deteriorating memory and other thinking skills making the functioning of a person on a day to day basis severely difficult. Alzheimer’s disease is a part of Dementia which is a broad categorisation of brain functioning disorders making it two-thirds of all the cases diagnosed.
Alzheimer’s disease is mostly a condition of extreme old age. While most patients are elderly, the average age of diagnosis around the globe is 65 according to modern medicine. An increased life expectancy due to advanced healthcare also means that there are more individuals who are more susceptible to being affected by the disease.
According to the World Alzheimer’s report from 2015, China and India are the top two countries with the most elderly people who are reportedly diagnosed by Alzheimer’s disease. Many people in America are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease every 3.2 seconds each year, scaling it up to 9 million cases.
What happens when a person suffers from Alzheimer’s disease?
They slowly start forgetting simple things including menial tasks like
- wearing and buttoning a shirt
- holding a spoon
- answering the door
- turning on the lights
- Trouble retaining new information and remembering details from the past.
This ultimately leads to total memory loss and short-term memory. Usually affected people begin to have trouble recognizing their close ones and other family members. This not only affects the functioning of an individual but also affects the whole family emotionally. So the elderly members of a family, not being able to find their glasses frequently can actually be worrisome as well as a warning sign.
According to the Alzheimer’s Disease International 2019 report some of the key findings are:
- Almost 80% of the general public are concerned about developing dementia at some point and 1 in 4 people think that there is nothing we can do to prevent dementia
- 35% of carers across the world said that they have hidden the diagnosis of dementia of a family member
- Over 50% of carers globally say their health has suffered as a result of their caring responsibilities even whilst expressing positive sentiments about their role
- Almost 62% of healthcare providers worldwide think that dementia is part of normal aging
- 40% of the general public think doctors and nurses ignore people with dementia
To fight against stigmas and stereotypes around Alzheimer’s disease organizations do the following:
1. Specialised education about dementia-related stigma.
2. Social contact with persons living with dementia.
3. Targeted public health awareness / messaging / education, through:
- Public advocacy by persons living with dementia
- Art-based approaches, such as musical performance by persons living with dementia
- Short film for example
4. Changes in public policy (e.g., relating to employment, health insurance)
Families that are affected by dementia have to face a disease that is often scary and crippling. They should not also have to deal with public ignorance, rudeness and cruelty also from the people in the family.
It is often heard from caretakers who have had to experience rude comments or glaring stares while out in public with their suffering loved one. People with dementia who have had to listen to insensitive jokes or thoughtless comments from people who just do not understand the difficult realities of the condition.
Dementia is not to be taken lightly, and people affected by it deserve to be treated with understanding and respect.