Dementia and Dignity

Vicky Pitner   -  

Using respectful language when speaking to someone living with dementia not only helps to honor their dignity but also promotes an awareness that a dementia diagnosis does not define the person. Dementia does not take away a person’s dignity. People do. There are many types of dementia, and each person is an individual. When you have met one person with dementia, you have met one person with dementia, just as if you met one athlete, you have met one athlete because everyone is different. We all have our individual personalities, likes and dislikes, preferences, and needs, and dementia affects each person differently.

The person does not cease to be who they are and change from an adult into a “child,” and they are definitely “an empty shell,” as sometimes perceived. It is our responsibility to learn and practice how to connect with the person where they are and do things with the person, not for the person to promote independence, self-worth, and, of course, dignity. Concluding all people with dementia are the same reinforces the stereotypes and stigma dementia brings, and a diagnosis of dementia does not reflect the person’s level of ability to understand.