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Dementia stigma stops older people seeking help and support

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A quarter of people diagnosed with dementia hide the fact for fear of being stigmatised, according to a new report.

The Medical Research Council (MRC), which commissioned the joint report by think-tank International Longevity Centre UK, said the social stigma was hampering diagnosis, care and research.

“It’s clear that more needs to be done to understand the roots and causes of dementia and stamp out social stigma”

Hugh Perry

Charities estimate their will be around 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK by next year, with the report claiming over 55s fear the condition more than any other.

Professor Hugh Perry, chair of the MRC’s neuroscience and mental health board, said: “If people are too frightened to address early signs of dementia, we can’t possibly get a full picture of the disease from a research perspective, to understand how the disease first develops and how it varies from person to

University of Southampton

Hugh Perry

“It’s clear that more needs to be done to understand the roots and causes of dementia and stamp out social stigma – the same way that stigma surrounding cancer and HIV has been all but eradicated,” he said.

The research was based on interviews with people who had been diagnosed with dementia, as well as relatives and health professionals.

The stigma can even lead to a worsening of symptoms if sufferers are neglected, added Professor Perry, while a leading dementia charity said they had had reports of people feeling cut off after being diagnosed.

“[Loss of social networks] is a totally unacceptable, yet avoidable situation that people with dementia have to face”

George McNamara

George McNamara, head of policy and public affairs at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “Too often people with dementia tell us that since their diagnosis they’ve faced an unacceptable level of stigma and in some cases lost friends and social networks.

“This wouldn’t happen if you had a disease like cancer and is a totally unacceptable, yet avoidable situation that people with dementia have to face,” he said.

“We’ve come a long way in terms of raising awareness but we still need to do more as a society to banish the stigma surrounding dementia once and for all. Beating dementia won’t just happen in a lab,” he added.

Alzheimer’s Research UK, which also contributed to the study, said there needed to be better awareness of the condition.

 

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