Imagine if we don’t fear dementia

By Dr Cecilia Chan ( Gerontologist, Dementia Activist & Advocate )

John Lennon’s song, imagine was on air and it hit me hard. How did this song manage to poke the world in the eye? The track captures Lennon pleading for a fairer more compassionate world. I wonder if we could imagine a world where we do not fear cognitive impairment like dementia. The word Dementia evokes strong and powerful emotions.

What are the common stories about dementia? Hit Google, and we are immediately flooded with the persistent stories we tell and are told about this condition.  The term  “silent tsunami” of dementia has been a dominant watery image in many news stories. Many stories project the  “slow-moving tsunami” (an oxymoron: tsunamis are not slow-moving) and the “wave” of dementia. In both cases, It indicates a sense of an unstoppable force of nature coupled with quiet stealth.

For most of us, the word dementia invokes a profound dread and paralysing fear.  The discourses of the scientific community do not help to reduce the fear but instead, reinforce this pervasive sense of horror about dementia. For instance, the prevalence of dementia is described in dramatic terms as an “epidemic” and a “crisis”.

To top it up, book titles such as Alzheimer’s Disease: Coping with a Living Death (Woods 1989) and The Living Dead: Alzheimer’s in America (Lushin 1990) link persons living with dementia to ghouls.

I imagine what would it be like if there is no fear of dementia. What would our world be like?

Imagine if there is no stigma, more people will be diagnosed, which will result in early diagnosis and better planning.

Imagine no stereotyping, people living with dementia will be encouraged to live a full life even as dementia progresses, with a supportive community.

More people would spend time with those who live in nursing homes, leading to less tolerance of poor quality care.

Family and friends will come forward to support those living with dementia, reducing social isolation for those living with dementia and their family members, which may also lead to reducing stress for all. Less stress may mean better productivity which also could lead to a thriving economy.

Maybe we could all have a fresh new understanding of what it means to be a human being because we all pass this way but once.

I shall end by quoting John, “ You may say I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us and the world will live as one.”

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