Great Old Age, Denying Stigma on Dementia

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Stigma is often a bad perception as a result of lack of information of something. The bad perception often becomes a hurdle for someone to do something. Sometimes stigma is based on facts and in some cases good to be put into consideration. However, in the case of dementia, stigma tends to bring negative effects and must be avoided. The negative effects are not only for the patients, but also for the caregivers.

Why? Dr. Tara P. Sani, M. Sc., a lecturer of Atma Jaya Faculty of Medicine and Health Science, explained that the negative stigma becomes the biggest hurdle for patients to receive appropriate treatment. The fear of being ignored in family discussion or social gathering is one example of why people deny having dementia.

Stigma from those two sides often will only worsen condition, both for patients and their environment. Besides closing the access to treatment, the good relationships might also be ruined. Stigma can also fall on caregivers who give their hearts to serve people with dementia (ODD). Caregivers, who are often the children of ODDs, are often thought that they will also suffer from dementia. The ODDs who avoid social activities due to fear of being judged will also harm their caregivers because they also have to be absent from social gatherings to take care of their ODDs.

“Negative stigma can also lead ODDs to avoid asking for help or being open to treatment. Even worse, it can also become a barrier for caregivers to receive support which they really need,” said dr. Tara.

Dementia is not a hereditary or infectious disease. In the Friday Coffee Break (FCB) talk series by ATZI Center (Atma Jaya and Alzheimer Indonesia) on Friday (May 3), dr. Tara said that according to a research’s results, of many potential causes of dementia, genetics gives the smallest value and is not significant enough to be a reason why a person can suffer from dementia.

In fact, unhealthy lifestyles, unhealthy diet, being in stressful environment, age factor, even wearing helmet for too long might be the factors which cause dementia. As in previously mentioned stigma, the stigma that elders no longer can make decision for themselves, no longer can independently do their routines, in fact, just limit the elders and it might trigger dementia. Elders will really think that they are limited and this thought will weaken their cognitive ability.

Therefore, managing stress, doing physical exercise and practicing brain stimulation exercise are several steps which help ODDs. “The medicine for dementia is similar to the medicine of heart disease. Having healthy diet and doing exercise. But what make those two different is the need for brain stimulation and social activities, such as being involved in community, decision-making, chatting, etc,” said dr. Tara. For caregivers, it is recommended that they have support system to help and encourage them so that they will not feel alone in taking care of ODDs.

#SahabatAtma, by realizing all potential factors which trigger dementia and understanding how to help and take care of ODDs will provide opportunities for ODDs to have better life. If they keep being trapped in stigma, their life qualities will deteriorate.