gmhTODAY Fall 2021 October-December 2021 - Page 36

Dementia Awareness Month

Breaking the Stigma

By Robin Shepherd

It ’ s soul-crushing to watch a loved one struggle and fail at everyday activities that were once second nature . Such is the burden of dementia . Nowadays it ’ s rare to find a family that hasn ’ t been touched by dementia in some way . It ’ s a public health challenge that demands a collective response . Families receiving a dementia diagnosis often become overwhelmed , not knowing what to expect , how they ’ ll cope with the changes ahead , or where to turn for help . Without information and support , odds are they ’ ll experience isolation , financial hardship , and reduced quality of life . It doesn ’ t have to be this way . We are fortunate to live in a region that prioritizes access to people , knowledge , and resources to address public health needs like this one . In fact , people across South County are coming together this month to meet the dementia challenge with a dementia-friendly response ( details below ).

Why It Matters
According to the National Institutes of Health , dementia is not a normal part of aging , the risk of having it doubles every five years for people over the age of 65 . With more of us living longer , it ’ s expected that more than 150 million people will be living with dementia by 2050 .
Progressive dementia is the result of diseases that attack the brain and cause continual decline in a person ’ s cognitive , behavioral , emotional and physical health . Researchers are working to identify underlying causes of Alzheimer ’ s , Lewy body , vascular and other neurodegenerative diseases . Until we have the cure , we can ’ t fix dementia , but we can focus on maximizing quality of life for patients and their caregivers .
Let ’ s Break the Stigma . . .
As human beings , we often fear what we don ’ t understand or can ’ t control . We tend to focus on what people with dementia can ’ t do , rather than what they can do . This leads to stigmatization and robs people of dignity , purpose and hope . We can break the stigma by changing our perspective on how we view dementia , how we talk about it , and how we approach dementia care .
. . . and Tackle the Challenges
• People may be unaware or deny they ’ re experiencing dementia symptoms .
• Seniors may not have planned for the possibility of dementia , prepared a will or an advance health directive , or designated a healthcare power of attorney .
• Doctors may not recognize symptoms , or hesitate to diagnose or refer patients to specialists when they do suspect dementia .
• Employers may lack human resources programs for workers caring for someone with dementia .
• Friends and neighbors may stop calling or visiting , leading to social isolation .
• Family caregivers may experience burnout , with negative impacts to their own health and wellbeing .
• Communities may lack systems or networks to easily connect families in need with resources .
Every one of these challenges can be overcome , but it takes education , training , resources , and a commitment to the health and well-being of people with dementia . As a community , we can develop a basic understanding of what dementia is , how families can be prepared for the possibility of dementia , potential caregiving needs , and community resources that offer support throughout a family ’ s journey with dementia .
DEMENTIA-FRIENDLY SOUTH COUNTY - A Dementia Awareness & Response Event , October 28th | 7:00 - 9:00 pm Guest Panel and Community Discussion - ZOOM Webinar : https :// us02web . zoom . us / j / 85193157745 FACEBOOK Livestream : www . facebook . com / morganhillengage
More than 20 Morgan Hill , Gilroy , and San Martin civic , business , and nonprofit organizations will be invited to participate , collaborate and commit to a community-wide Dementia-Friendly Response . Free event open to the public . Event Partners :
36 FALL 2021 gmhTODAY Magazine gmhtoday . com