Understanding Stigma

According to the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada, stigma is one of the biggest barriers for people living with dementia to live fully with dignity and respect.  Stigma profoundly affects the wellbeing of people who experience it and it can change the way they feel about themselves and how others see them.

We define stigma as any negative attitude against a person (with dementia) based solely on their diagnosis.  Stigma leads to both purposeful acts of discrimination and of unconscious bias – attitudes that one might carry without being fully aware of them or their consequences.  These harmful actions and attitudes can also carry over to the families and caregiver of a person with dementia, affecting them as well.  When a condition is as prevalent as dementia, but largely misunderstood, it is easy for stigma and unconscious bias to spread.

It is important to check your own ideas and attitudes before you begin this work, to identify and correct unconscious biases that you may be carrying.

Stigma takes many forms starting with a lack of awareness, but also including holding harmful or misleading assumptions, using negative language and comments.  Unsupportive or negative communication and actions can all lead to a loss of self-worth.