The Dementia Conversation

OK folks, here’s a tough one. Memory loss, dementia, Alzheimer’s. I think those words send a jolt of fear through us. Do I have it now? Is it in my future? I couldn’t remember that very common word the other day, or my grandson’s wife’s name, although I know her well – is that a sign that I have it? I also think that whether it makes any logical sense or not, there is still a stigma, or shame, to the disease. Why would a disease diagnosis cause shame? Like somehow, it’s my fault I have this disease. If I wasn’t so stupid, or I had been a better person, I wouldn’t have this disease. How crazy is that thought process?! A disease is a malfunction of the physical body, not a rating of how smart or good a person I am.
Unfortunately, our fear and the social stigma have consequences. People try to cover up the signs of memory loss, not telling anyone, particularly their doctor or family members. But by doing so, they miss out on support and resources that could help out, even in early stages of the disease.
It is easier to get a diagnosis from your doctor. There are new geriatric and memory clinics right here in Lewiston/Auburn area. No longer do you have to travel to Portland to get a full assessment. More doctors have better screening assessment tools that they use right in their offices. However, you may still need to become your own advocate and work to get full and complete answers for yourself.
There are many more resources and supports in our communities. The Alzheimer’s Association has such helpful information on their website. They also do lots of education at our Education Center about the disease – from the signs and symptoms to legal resources. There are caregiver support groups in Androscoggin, Franklin, and Oxford counties, and coming soon at SeniorsPlus– a group for those who have the disease themselves.
Now is the time for us to open up the conversation about memory loss!

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