Many people experience self-stigma about having dementia. This means that they feel negative or ashamed about themselves because they have dementia. In contrast, people who have other chronic diseases such as arthritis or heart disease are less likely to feel ashamed. This self-stigma is because of the myths and stereotypes about dementia that we’ve absorbed from television, books, movies, the news and society.
Let’s bust some of these myths and stereotypes.
Myth: People with dementia are victims suffering from the disease
- Fact: Many people with dementia have control, are comfortable, content and even happy
A common stereotype of people with dementia is that they are victims who are suffering from a brain disease that robs them of their memories, identity and life. People with dementia are often shown on television, in books and described in the news as powerless, dependent and requiring compassion and care.
Many people with dementia do not meet this stereotype. While they do have a brain disease, and may have problems with memory and concentration, they know who they are and remember important things. Many people with dementia do a lot for themselves and for others and are in control of their lives, even if they need help with some tasks.
Unfortunately, many people in the community including health and social care providers also have this stereotype of people with dementia. This may come across by not always including you in decisions about your care, or talking to your family instead of to you directly, or not giving you information and choices. It is important to speak up and ask to be included in decisions about your care.
You are not the stereotyped suffering victim of dementia. You are you.
Ask your doctors to treat you the same way they would treat their other patients without dementia, understanding that you have a right to information and to know what choices are available to you.
Myth: People with dementia cannot learn new things
- Fact: People with dementia can continue to learn new things
People with dementia often have poor short-term memory. This means they can’t remember things that happened recently. Because of this, it can take more effort and more time for people with dementia to learn new things. However, it is possible for people with dementia to learn new things. For example, many people with dementia learned to use Zoom to video-chat during the pandemic. Some people with dementia even taught others how to use these resources!
It can be stressful going into a situation where you have to learn something new. Some people with dementia have told us that it’s frustrating and they sometimes avoid those situations. If you are going into a situation where you will be learning something new, take your time, use a pencil and paper and ask for help when you need it.
Myth: There is nothing that can be done for people with dementia
- Fact: There are many treatments and strategies that can slow progression and deal with symptoms,