Up to 75 percent of people suffering from dementia feel that their condition has been stigmatized by the general public and up to 40 percent reported that they have been treated in a negative way because of their condition, the Taiwan’s Alzheimer’s Disease Association (TADA) said yesterday.
To mark World Alzheimer’s Day yesterday, the association released a summary of the World Alzheimer Report 2012 — a report compiled by the Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), in which the TADA is an official member representing Taiwan since 2005.
“‘Overcoming the stigma of dementia’ is the most important issue chosen by the ADI this year,” TADA president and attending neurologist at National Taiwan University Hospital Chiu Ming-jang (邱銘章) said. “Stigmatization of dementia have caused many patients and their family members to conceal the problem and delay medical treatment.”
The report this year included a worldwide survey conducted in 54 countries, with a total of 2,150 people with dementia and their caretakers on their personal experiences of stigma, TADA secretary-general Tang Li-yu (湯麗玉) said, adding that the stigma surrounding dementia has become a worldwide problem causing patients and their caretakers to retreat from society and become isolated.
Chiu said stigmatization is mostly the result of the public’s limited understanding of the disease.
In addition, the mass media often portrays people suffering from Alzheimer’s in a biased manner — focusing on the symptoms seen in patients in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s, such as incontinence or getting lost.
“In fact, if dementia patients receive proper medical attention, especially in the early stages of the disease, treatment is more effective and they have more time to prepare for progression into the moderate or advanced stages,” he said, adding that early treatment can also save medical resources — which amount to about US$604 billion worldwide in 2010, or about 1 percent of global GDP.
“‘Dumbhead’ or ‘erratic old person’ are names that I’ve heard people with Alzheimer’s disease being called,” said Chiu Shu-ming (邱淑明), a woman with two family members suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Chui added that people with Alzheimer’s who exhibit repetitive behavior or are slow in responding are sometimes scolded by people who do not understand the disease.
The association estimates that there are currently about 150,000 to 200,000 people above 65 with Alzheimer’s disease in Taiwan, adding that the number may increase by 2.5 to 3 times in the next 20 years as the disease’s occurrence rate is higher among people above the age of 85.