|A reflection of how society often does not welcome
people with Alzheimer's.
Photo by Jeff Norris
Yesterday we were informed that while the event planners would still donate the proceeds from the race to the Alzheimer’s Association, they did not want to reserve tent space or tables, sell items, or have any signs mentioning Alzheimer’s at the event. The only time Alzheimer’s would be mentioned was on the event registration stating that proceeds would be donated to them. Their view is that Alzheimer’s is a depressing disease and the community event was supposed to be fun. They fear that recognizing Alzheimer's publicly would decrease attendance at the event because people do not want to be around people who have Alzheimer’s disease.
We politely declined to participate under these circumstances because the purpose was to raise awareness about the disease. The community event’s coordinators said at least we would still get money donated to the Alzheimer’s Association, and that was better than nothing. In our mind, that is not true. They were asking us to take money in exchange for hiding people with Alzheimer’s and dementia. They were saying people like my Mom are not welcome there, not part of our larger community.
Of course, I am upset by this turn of events. However, I am not surprised. This group is no different than the majority of the world. They fear a disease they do not understand and so inadvertently hurt and stigmatize people who are suffering.
My family and I will continue to raise awareness and work to end this stigma in any way we can. I try to remember the title of John Zeisel’s book about Alzheimer's care, called “I’m Still Here.” We want people with Alzheimer’s to know they are always still here, we will always see them. As Zeisel says, people living with Alzheimer's should not be hidden from society.
P.S. Even if you know what event I am talking about, please respect my wishes and do not disclose what event this was. This is not a problem associated with one group, they are just an example of society as a whole. All people deserve to be treated with respect.