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September 11, 2012

Association addresses Alzheimer’s stigma

INDIANAPOLIS — Alzheimer’s disease is an international epidemic impacting a growing number of families around the world, including 120,000 in Indiana, and threatening the global economy.

Yet, it is often misunderstood, preventing people from seeking medical treatment and securing desperately needed support.

In honor of World Alzheimer’s Month, the Alzheimer’s Association is unveiling tips created by people living with Alzheimer’s on how to address the stigma surrounding the disease.

The Alzheimer’s Association National Early-Stage Advisory Group, now in its seventh year, is composed of men and women from across the country who provide their unique insight on the needs of people living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.

Current and former early-stage advisers developed the following tips on how to combat stigma based on their personal experiences:

• Communicate the facts about dementia. Accurate information helps clear up misconceptions about the disease.

• Seek out friends and foster a positive way of communicating, explaining to others what it is like to have the disease, how you are coping and what projects you have planned for the future.

• Be open and direct about the diagnosis and engage the person in a discussion about Alzheimer’s disease and the need for methods of prevention, treatment and a cure.

• Denial of the disease by others is “about them” and not about you. There are those who may be quick to think people living with Alzheimer’s are simply going through the normal aging process. This is a perfect time to educate them.

• There are a lot of people who do and will support you and keep you involved in their activities. Stay connected to them and focus on what you can still do; Connect and seek support from other individuals who are also living with the disease or are caregivers.

• There is no shame in having Alzheimer’s — it is a disease. Talk openly about it.

• Advocate for self and be a part of the solution by speaking out and educating others.

• Give others a link to information or booklet so they can understand Alzheimer’s disease has various stages.

“It is only by shining a light on the reality of Alzheimer’s disease that we will be able to ultimately eliminate this growing public health threat,” said Alzheimer’s Association Greater Indiana Chapter Executive Director Heather Hershberger.

“We have an urgent need to build awareness and understanding of the disease as a new individual develops Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia every 68 seconds.”

To learn more about Alzheimer’s disease and overcoming stigma, call 1-800-272-3900 or visit www.alz.org/indiana.

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