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So what are the social stigmas of dementia?

Dementia has been a social stigma since that was started to be... Well, since it was diagnosed years and years ago, because what happened was people who were exhibiting symptoms like more confusion, saying weird things at weird times, not being able to sit still, were considered mentally ill. And this was back in the beginning of the last century, so they were eventually put in mental institutions and treated as though they were mentally ill. Well, as the years went by, we started seeing that people who were older, older adults who began exhibiting this at a later age, probably were not mentally ill, but they had what was called hardening of the arteries, still difficult to manage at home, still put in a mental institution because they did not know where they should be, so that gave kind of rise to this whole stigma attached to mental illness with dementia. And in fact, dementia is not a mental illness. It's classified as one still, but it is still wrong, that will eventually have to change.

It is an organic disease. It is cell death. Mental illness, true mental illness, is a chemical problem, frequently, and disorganized thinking problem. Well, disorganized thinking problem with dementia is due to the loss of brain cells, the death of brain cells, which is a completely different issue than it is for mental illness. So I think when that stigma started, we already were on the wrong road with dementia itself, and as the years continued to go by, we found that they were different, they were not handling ageing just like everybody else, they did bring with them a whole cadre of behavioural challenges that their ageing counterparts did not have. So we almost become lazy. It was easier for us to just kind of classify them in the same bailiwick. In fact, for many years, we felt comfortable giving them psychoactive medications just like we would for a mentally ill person.

It has only been within the last 10, 15 years that we have realized that that kind of medication is contraindicated to dementia, makes them more confused, higher risk for falls, and higher mortality rate. So, I think the stigma is that they are different from us and the inability for most people to accept those differences, and that causes us to marginalize them.