There are millions of people afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia, and there will be millions more as our society ages. Our goal is simple: We must work together to stop the suffering and stigma.
A person who has Alzheimer’s is indeed often described as an “Alzheimer’s sufferer” or “suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.” It is our hope that we can create a Dementia Capable Society in which our health professionals, businesses, and loved ones of those with Alzheimer’s/dementia perceive these individuals as capable of living
with Alzheimer’s, instead of suffering. For the Alzheimer's patient, only then will this quality of life change happen.
Everywhere I go, I meet people who have loved ones with Alzheimer’s/dementia, and they are scared, confused, and overwhelmed. They hold the belief that their loved one will suffer for many years because of their diagnosis. They often feel alone as they try to hold their own life together while caring for their loved one who is slowly losing cognitive and functional abilities.
As I’ve shared with my neighbor, with the employee at my dentist’s office, and the cable guy, “Your loved one can co-exist with their disease and have quality of life if we
simplify life to match their remaining abilities.” We call this creating the just-right challenge.
Imagine if the grocery store checker, banker, airline attendant, nurse, and daughter all had the skills to help the person with Alzheimer’s to engage in the social experience or activity successfully. Imagine if all of us knew how to help someone we knew or saw with dementia. To be successful, the entire experience needs to be simplified.
If we start with the belief that Alzheimer’s does not have to equal suffering but that joy, purpose, and safety are all possible, our choices open up. If our society were Dementia Capable, with the ability to simplify ordering from a menu, reduce the challenges of navigating through an airport, make it obvious how to use a public restroom, and more, the world would be more accessible and safe for those living
with Alzheimer’s. Their loved ones would feel overwhelming support. Shame, isolation, and anger would decrease while hope for quality of life and co-existence with Alzheimer’s would become the reality.
Our wish and our goal for Alzheimer’s Awareness Month is to change the belief that suffering is the natural byproduct of the disease, and empower everyone to create the just-right challenge for those with Alzheimer’s/dementia so they can continue to participate in and enjoy life
throughout their years of living
with Alzheimer’s—not suffering.
What kind of society do you want for your loved one or client with dementia?