Stigma is a term used to describe a societal mark of shame or discredit. As individuals with dementia speak out they are relating the difficulties of living with their diagnoses in a society that sees it as a discredit or a mark of shame. One commentator said that Alzheimer’s is the new Cancer—not to be discussed, shared, to be hidden. As Margaret Thatcher’s death is reported the term dementia is used. The reports speak of Baroness Thatcher having had multiple strokes. Knowing that dementia is a symptom, not a diagnosis—is it possible that even the news media is feeding the societal mark of shame? With all the exact details of her friendship with Ronald Reagan, her party stances, her amazing achievements, why was “dementia” the undefined brush stroke in her memorial portrait?
If I receive a diagnosis that is overwhelming and over time I hear of great people who share my diagnosis, I begin to feel less despair. My burden is shared. My questions of “why me?” are mitigated. I’m now in a group that includes someone great. Somehow that lessens the stigma.
I hope that future reporting of Margaret’s death is more exact as to her diagnosis.