A LECTURER says there is a lot of stigma around dementia which can have negative effects on patients and families.

Phil Harper is a dementia specialist at the Institute of Health and Society, University of Worcester.

Mr Harper said: “Lack of understanding about dementia often causes negative attitudes and the use of negative language. Often when negative language is used it is not meant with malice, it is what a dementia professor called Tom Kitwood called malignant Social Psychology. This is where people do not mean to cause harm but do so due to lack of understanding or awareness.”

Mr Harper said here is a lot of stigma due to lack of awareness, causing inaccurate ideas around the condition.

“In my work with people living with dementia I often get giggles and smiles, this is proof that a person can live a good life and it is not all negative . I do understand that it is a difficult disease and I have experienced the difficulties in my personal life as well as professionally, however, we need to focus on the positives for the sake of the person living with dementia.”

Mr Harper believes negative language such as 'dementia sufferer' can cause those with the condition to become isolated, by stopping their family visit them. He said the idea that visiting someone with dementia is pointless because they will not remember the visit is inaccurate. In fact, visits from loved ones are important as although they may forget about them, happy moments can still have a lasting positive emotional impact.

Mr Harper said: “We should be looking at them as an individual and not just a person with an illness.”

Mr Harper share the Alzheimers Society's five key messages which are: dementia is not a natural part of ageing, it is caused by diseases of the brain, it's not just about memory loss, it's possible to live well with dementia and there is more to a person than dementia. He said dementia is difficult to diagnose, and that negativity often makes people afraid to visit a doctor, but it is vital that they do. Although there's no cure, available treatments can help with symptoms and improve a persons life.

Although Mr Harper is a specialist at Worcester University, he would like to express that the views and beliefs shared in this article are his own and are not representing any institution.