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Call to 'stamp out' dementia stigma

29 October 2014 10:15

The social stigma surrounding dementia is hindering diagnosis and care, a report warns

The social stigma surrounding dementia is hindering diagnosis and care, a report warns

A new report calls for increased awareness over dementia, to help eradicate the social stigma reported by many sufferers of the condition.

According to the Medical Research Council's (MRC) study, a quarter of people with the disease feel the need to disguise their condition or shy away from addressing the early signs for fear of the reaction they may receive.

This in turn is holding back diagnosis, care and research into how the disease first develops, according to Professor Hugh Perry, chairman of the MRC's neuroscience and mental health board.

Awareness campaigns for diseases such as HIV and cancer have shown that illnesses do not need to carry stigmas. People with dementia can still live a normal, healthy lifestyle and can continue to enjoy holidays abroad with the security provided by travel insurance tailored for those with pre-existing medical conditions.

Prof. Perry adds that with the right messages to help people understand the roots and causes of the disease, the stigma surrounding dementia can be "stamped out" completely.

The research, which was co-commissioned by think-tank International Longevity Centre UK and involved Alzheimer's Research UK, interviewed people who had been diagnosed with dementia, as well as relatives and health professionals.

The charity's workers said they too often receive reports from people with dementia reporting feelings of isolation after diagnosis.

George McNamara, head of policy and public affairs at Alzheimer's Society, said some of those contacting the charity face "an unacceptable level of stigma and in some cases lost friends and social network".

He describes it as a totally unacceptable, yet avoidable situation for dementia sufferers. Despite the progress made in raising awareness, he knows more needs to be as a society to banish the disease's stigma "once and for all".

Estimates by a number of charities put the number of dementia patients at 850,000 by 2015, with the report highlighting that the greatest fears are held by people over 55 years of age.