Sep 26, 2016

Public Attitudes About Dementia Patients

There appeared to be a general acceptance that once a person is diagnosis with dementia they are viewed negatively in society.

Around one half of respondents agreed as soon as someone is diagnosed with dementia, they are not treated like a thinking human being anymore.
By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Around one half of respondents agreed as soon as someone is diagnosed with dementia, they are not treated like a thinking human being anymore.

Forty-six percent of the 1,200 adults interviewed in this survey said they knew someone with dementia. This number is thought to be higher now.

The public, most often, describes persons living with dementia as confused (90 percent), and frightened (62 percent).

As I reread the results of this study, I had two reactions.

I believe society has come a long way in the last ten years to better understand dementia. I also believe we have a long way to go.

How would you respond to this statement from the survey,

"for people with really bad dementia, I don't think life is worth living".

Knowledge of Dementia

It is not surprising that nearly one half of respondents said that they knew someone with dementia.

This varied by age, with just under one quarter of those aged 18-24 knowing someone with dementia, compared with one half of those aged 65 years or over.

The figures shown in Table 1 indicate that the public has a wide range of understanding of what dementia is.

Knowledge of Dementia

Describing Dementia

When asked to identify which words they would use to describe the way that someone who has had dementia respondents answered:
  • confused (90%)
  • frightened(62%)
  • lost (58%)
  • and unpredictable (52%).
More positive words – such as ‘happy’ – were selected much less often by respondents (see Table 2). This suggests that the general public often has a narrow, and quite negative, way of thinking about people with dementia.

Describing Dementia
Add caption

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Living with Dementia

The reality of how society thinks about, and cares for people with dementia was explored in the survey.

There was wide support among respondents (83%) for the idea that ‘there comes a time when all you can do for someone with dementia is to keep them clean, healthy and safe’.

However, there was less agreement about where a person with dementia should live. Around one third of respondents thought that it is better for a person with dementia – and their families – if they were cared for in a nursing home or residential unit.

Similar proportions disagreed with this statement, or said that they neither agreed nor disagreed. Of course, the particular stage or type of dementia may influence respondents’ attitudes to
this particular statement.

Living with dementia

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Maria McManus, director of the Northern Ireland office of the Dementia Services Development Centre and a co-author of the report, said: "The views reflected by the survey confirm much of what needs to be challenged about attitudes, care and services for people with dementia and the need to address this in public policies and research, as well as in practice through the provision of services."

Source: Dementia: public knowledge and attitudes

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