Screen Readers Skip to Content

The Stigma Attached to Alzheimer's Disease

Published: 2012-09-23 - Updated: 2021-07-23
Author: The Alzheimer's Association | Contact:

Synopsis: Information statistics and tips for coping with the stigma created by people living with Alzheimers disease and or dementia. Dementia is a loss of brain function that occurs with certain diseases. Alzheimer's disease (AD), is one form of dementia that gradually gets worse over time. It affects memory, thinking, and behavior. 66% of survey respondents who have dementia said they made friends who are connected to dementia, often finding each other through community-based support groups, online chat or bulletin boards, or through Alzheimer associations.

Main Digest

Seventy-five (75) percent of people with dementia and 64 percent of caregivers believe there are negative associations for those diagnosed with dementia in their countries, according to survey fielded by Alzheimer's Disease International and published today in the World Alzheimer Report 2012: Overcoming the Stigma of Dementia. The report was released on Alzheimer's Action Day as part of World Alzheimer's Month activities engaging people in the cause and raising awareness about the disease.


Dementia is a loss of brain function that occurs with certain diseases. Alzheimer's disease (AD), is one form of dementia that gradually gets worse over time. It affects memory, thinking, and behavior. Mild cognitive impairment is the stage between normal forgetfulness due to aging, and the development of AD. People with MCI have mild problems with thinking and memory that do not interfere with everyday activities. They are often aware of the forgetfulness. Not everyone with MCI develops AD.

In response, Alzheimer's Association Early-Stage Advisers, men and women from across the U.S. living with the disease, and their caregivers developed tips on how to cope with the stigma surrounding Alzheimer's based on their personal experiences.

"The Report reveals that people with dementia and their care partners often feel disconnected from society, and sometimes even by their own friends and family members," said Beth Kallmyer, MSW, vice president of constituent services at the Alzheimer's Association. "The misconceptions and stigma create unnecessary barriers to progress such as improving care and support services and increasing funding for research."

In the current Report, nearly one in four people with dementia (24 percent) who responded to the survey said they hid or concealed their diagnosis, citing stigma as the main reason. They expressed concerns that their thoughts and opinions would be "discounted and dismissed," and that they would be "treated more positively" if they did not reveal their diagnosis.

The authors noted that social exclusion was a "major theme" with 40 percent of people with dementia in the survey reporting they have been avoided or treated differently because of their dementia. Respondents said their friends and family "say they don't know how to behave 'normally' around me anymore," and many have "drifted away."

A survey respondent with dementia from the U.S. said:

"It's very interesting to see how people close to me act. It's almost as if they are afraid of bringing up the subject. Being a cancer survivor, I know that I was constantly asked how I was doing while I was going through treatment. With Alzheimer's, no one asks."

The report found that when people with dementia are able to make new connections, it is often with people in similar circumstances. Sixty-six (66) percent of survey respondents who have dementia said that they have made friends who are connected to dementia, often finding each other through community-based support groups, online chat or bulletin boards, or through Alzheimer associations.

"People with dementia, especially in the early and middle stages, can take part in many everyday activities. They have the same needs as everyone else for social interaction and engagement in meaningful activities, even in the later stages of the disease. We encourage people living with Alzheimer's or another dementia to be involved in making decisions that affect them for as long as they can, to help maintain their autonomy, dignity and self-esteem," Kallmyer said.

Facing Stigma

In response to the Report and to honor of World Alzheimer's Month, the Alzheimer's Association is unveiling tips for coping with stigma created by people living with the disease. Current and former members of the Alzheimer's Association National Early-Stage Advisory Group developed these tips based on their personal experiences:

The Alzheimer's Association also recently launched ALZConnected, a social networking community designed specifically for people with Alzheimer's disease and caregivers. After becoming a member (at no cost), ALZConnected users can connect and communicate with people who understand their challenges, pose questions and offer solutions to dementia-related issues and create public and private groups organized around a dedicated topic.

The Report includes 10 recommendations to enable governments and societies to tackle stigma, including encouraging greater public education. Nearly half of the survey respondents pointed to increasing education and raising awareness about Alzheimer's and dementia as a much-needed, high priority action. Other recommendations are to provide more opportunities for people with dementia to share their experiences and ensure that they are included in everyday activities.

In addition to the survey results, the World Alzheimer Report 2012 includes essays by people with dementia, care and social science researchers, and legislators, and multiple examples of "best practice" programs from around the world, including:

World Alzheimer's Month 2012 September is World Alzheimer's Month, and the Alzheimer's Association is encouraging everyone to "Go Purple." Visit to learn ways to "Go Purple," including:

To learn more about Alzheimer's disease and overcoming stigma, call 1-800-272-3900 or visit

ADI World Alzheimer Report Survey

ADI states, "The World Alzheimer Report 2012: Overcoming the Stigma of Dementia shares results from a worldwide survey conducted with people with dementia and [caregivers] on their personal experiences of stigma." The anonymous online survey was conducted in June 2012 and completed by more than 2,500 people with dementia and caregivers from 78 countries. 2,068 responded in English; 519 responded to versions of the survey in Spanish (282), Greek (94) and Chinese (143).

According to ADI, of the 127 (6%) of respondents with dementia in the English language survey, most reported that diagnosis (or discovery of dementia) had occurred within the last five years (51%). Sixty-one percent (71) of respondents indicated they were female and 39% (46) male. Diagnoses included Alzheimer's disease (55%), vascular dementia (12%), mild cognitive impairment (10%), and fronto-temporal dementia (7%). The largest group of respondents with dementia indicated they were between 63 and 72 years of age, with a little over half of the participants (56%) being at or over age 65. Individuals with dementia responded from 13 countries including Australia, Canada, Finland, United Kingdom and the United States, with the U.S. having the most at 55%.

ADI acknowledges that the survey respondents were not a representative sample noting, "results from the survey indicate that a majority of participants completed secondary education or above with nearly 50% of participants in the English, Chinese and Greek surveys completing college or graduate school. This indicates that survey respondents are a select group of people with dementia and informal carers with a mostly high level of education. In addition, over half of respondents in all four surveys also participate in programs with Alzheimer's organizations, societies, support groups or day centers."

ADI, an international federation of 78 Alzheimer associations around the world, including the Alzheimer's Association (U.S.), has produced an annual World Alzheimer Report since 2009, previously covering topics including global dementia prevalence and global cost of dementia care.

Primary Information Source(s):

The Stigma Attached to Alzheimer's Disease | The Alzheimer's Association ( Disabled World makes no warranties or representations in connection therewith. Content may have been edited for style, clarity or length.

In Other News:

You're reading Disabled World. See our homepage for informative disability news, reviews, sports, stories and how-tos. You can also connect with us on social media such as Twitter and Facebook or learn more about Disabled World on our about us page.

Disclaimer: Disabled World provides general information only. Materials presented are in no way meant to be a substitute for professional medical care by a qualified practitioner, nor should they be construed as such. Any 3rd party offering or advertising on does not constitute endorsement by Disabled World.

Cite This Page (APA): The Alzheimer's Association. (2012, September 23). The Stigma Attached to Alzheimer's Disease. Disabled World. Retrieved September 23, 2021 from