Many years ago, cancer was referred to as the “C” word and people were reluctant to talk about it until widespread education and awareness spread throughout the world.
Or could it be that there are now some cures for some forms of cancer if caught early enough?
The same can be said for dementia being referred to in silence as the deadly “D” word, yet there is no cure and inevitably dementia is a terminal disease of the brain.
Is that why people reject and ignore the person?
People are strange creatures. When they are unable to cope or know how to behave around a person with a diagnosis that affects the brain and the so-called normal behaviour, they withdraw.
The once kind, friendly person has shunned you and no longer is willing to engage and enquire how you are anymore.
Either way, the only way around this is education, education, education.
By making people aware of what is happening in the brain, then they may be able to understand and have more empathy, tolerance and understanding of what your journey looks like.
After all, we are all on the same life journey, some stations are lengthier than others and some stops are more challenging.
People are social beings and when that social interaction is removed then isolation, depression, and anxiety step into the mix along with the dementia diagnosis.
The support and interaction of family and friends, children and animals are all part of what we come to regard in our lives as normal.
When a diagnosis of dementia is made, life will never be the same for everyone again.
A prime example was a Christmas party I attended in a memory support unit.
For all intents and purposes the scene was that of a group of elders engaging in a social, fun party.
Family members, sons, daughters, grandchildren were all sharing in the festivities.
There were no behaviours, no wandering, just people eating, drinking, laughing and sharing a celebration.
I wonder where dementia went on this occasion.
Did it hide amongst the social frenzy of the moment, or did it forget to interrupt the person’s life for the duration of the party?
Either way, for that short time, a sense of normality returned to the people who live together 24/7 and were able to recall and remember Christmases past that took over the moment.
It was truly a joy to behold and made me feel a sense of warmth and hope for the future.
So, let us educate the world, make people aware of what is going on when dementia is diagnosed, and instead of stepping back, step forward and join the journey together.