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Stigma and Empathy

Imagine being sick, not feeling horrible but not feeling well either. Imagine knowing something has changed but not being able to put your finger on it. Imagine the frustration, fear, anxiety, depression, etc you would feel. Now imagine someone thinks you are fine since you look fine. You look the same and are exhausted from trying to be your old self. You want help but don’t know how to ask since you have never had ask in the past. Imagine someone looking at you like you are doing this all on purpose, doing this for attention, to be difficult or obstinate – you really will not want to ask for help.

This is what it can be like for those with memory loss. It is easier to back away from obligations, leave clubs, stop going to church or family dinners than deal with the looks and whispers. Many people dealing with dementia know there is something wrong. They are fighting so hard to get back the skills they have lost. We often try to help but they can feel we are taking over. Always start with empathy when dealing with someone that has dementia. Not sympathy. Not pity. Empathy. Be honest and say you do not know what they are going through but are here for them. Ask them if they are scared – what are they most scared of? This just might be the place to start helping them. Help alleviate their fears and let them know that although they are the one with the disease, we are together in this!