3 ways to overcome the stigma of dementia

For many people living with a health condition, dealing with stereotypes and myths can be a significant challenge. Stigma can also prevent people from receiving an early diagnosis, seeking treatment, and having the best quality of life possible.

Dementia is a loss of mental function that affects daily activities. It happens when cells in the brain die or when important nerve connections break down. Symptoms can include memory loss, behavioural changes, judgement and reasoning problems, and changes in mood and communication abilities.

Fortunately, there are some things people living with dementia, especially in the early stages, can do to overcome stigma.

Be open and direct. Talking to other people about dementia can help spread awareness and help people better understand the condition. Sometimes it can be hard to talk about your own struggles, but you can engage with others in a less personal way by discussing prevention, sharing accurate information from trusted resources, and addressing inaccuracies and myths about dementia.

Seek a support network. Staying connected with others and engaging in meaningful activities is essential to maintaining your quality of life. Don't pull away from your family and friends — talk openly about what kind of help you need, find new activities you can do together, and keep doing as many of your favourite activities as you can, adapting them to suit your needs if necessary. You can also search for a local support group to connect with others who are going through a similar experience.

Participate in the solution. Actively helping to address dementia can help to encourage positivity and to reduce stigma beyond your social circles. You can connect with organizations that advocate for people with dementia, join clinical trials, and participate in local fundraisers.

The federal government is working on a national dementia strategy that will complement existing initiatives to promote awareness, reduce stigma and support those affected and is committed to helping improve the quality of life for people living with dementia and their caregivers.