Seniors Health & Wellbeing
The Stigma of Living with Dementia
Joe Cuticelli
Joe Cuticelli
CEO, Seniors
Sodexo North America

This is the first blog in a continuing series based on the findings from the Institute for Quality of Life’s roundtable on memory care. Read the full whitepaper: “Treat me like a person, because that is what I still am.”

Dementia is perceived differently by different people. Broadly, dementia refers to a decline in mental ability serious enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform common activities. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that one in nine Americans over the age of 65 is impacted by dementia. As the 75 million baby boomers (ages 51-69) grow older, the number of Americans with dementia will significantly increase.

As a result, dementia caregiving is an issue that Sodexo is paying close attention to. Sodexo cares for more than 90,000 seniors in North America. This means we contribute to the quality of life for seniors in retirement communities or in their homes, providing customized services and attentive care every day.

This past May, the Sodexo Institute for Quality of Life partnered with Planetree, a not-for-profit organization that collaborates with healthcare organizations around the world and across the care continuum to transform how care is delivered.  We hosted a roundtable to discuss the state and future of memory care, quality of life and the progress of people living with dementia. This event  featured thought leaders from influential organizations in the senior care space, including Aging 2.0, Alzheimer’s Association, Dementia Action Alliance, Leading Age, as well as academic institutions whose research helps to advance the body of knowledge around dementia.

One of the key topics addressed the stigma attached to the word “dementia.” Alzheimer’s Disease International found that three-quarters of those with dementia and two-thirds of caregivers said that others perceive those with dementia negatively.

Not only can this stigma impede seniors from seeking diagnosis and care it can impact how healthcare professionals provide care. Further, some people believe that dementia is a normal part of aging. That’s not true.

However, the right diagnosis leads to the right care. With proper assessment, individuals impacted by dementia can be directed to the proper care and services to optimize their quality of life.

As a leader in Quality of Life services, Sodexo is committed to creating senior living environments to assist those with dementia. This includes facilitating social interactions among those with dementia such as seating residents with similar cognitive function levels together, creating a dining experience that makes the residents feel comfortable, and ensuring staff members are trained to positively manage interactions with the residents.

By optimizing the quality of life for people impacted by dementia, we can help lessen the stigma around the condition.  The Alzheimer’s Association shares that the stigma is partly due to a lack of public awareness and understanding of the condition. To that end, this blog series will seek to raise awareness around:

  • Stages of Dementia and Relationship to Quality of Life
  • Common Responses to Dementia
  • How We Can Focus on Quality of Life to Mitigate Dementia
  • Making Quality of Life a Priority for Those Living with Dementia

If you know someone impacted by dementia, please share your insights in the comments on how to improve the quality of life for others affected  by this condition.

4 comments on “The Stigma of Living with Dementia

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    Rebecca Shaw says:

    Wow. It’s moments like right now, after reading this blog, that I am so proud of the work we are doing at Sodexo to improve the Quality of Life for those we serve. As I now have a personal connection regarding understanding and interacting with dementia I’ve been thinking about the value of training our front line staff around dementia. Our team members engaging with and serving our residents daily will benefit from education about behaviors they may encounter and some best practices on how to respond or not respond. I would have appreciated that when I was a server 15 years ago. Exciting work and looking forward to see what the future holds for senior living environments to assist those living with dementia.

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    Ashlee Christakos says:

    Thank you Joe Cuticelli for this blog and the promise to continue it in the future. I think it is great that Sodexo is working to change not only how we think about dementia, but how we treat it. I think that creating care communities that pairs individuals based on the severity of their diagnosis would improve their quality of life and help them find support in that community.

    The study published in The Gerontologist by George et al titled ‘Impact of Participation in TimeSlips, a Creative Group-Based Storytelling Program, on Medical Student Attitudes Toward Persons With Dementia: A Qualitative Study’ seeks to overcome the stigma found in clinical setting from health care professionals. By introducing creative interactions in a non-clinical setting with dementia patients George’s study showed an improvement of misconceptions and misapprehensions held by medical professionals. This is important because according to ‘Stigma and GPs’ perceptions of dementia’ by Gove et al general practitioners have been shown to support stereotypes of dementia. There is a tendency to label all dementia patients as being immobile, incontinent, suffering, and alone. Such negative stereotypes help by a practitioner will only promote stigma and impede early diagnosis.

    Your commitment to change is wonderful and I think that this series will promote awareness.

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    Thanks Joe for sharing the blog. It’s true that millions of people around the world are suffering from Alzheimer’s. The daily routine also reflects on the physical and mental health of people in the golden years. The caregivers can often fail to understand the dynamics of dementia in seniors. Seniors can become angry due to cognitive decline and memory impairment. To lead a healthy life, seniors can maintain a mind simulating routine to work on and eat a nutritious diet.

  • Avatar

    “Thanks for sharing this Joe. It’s unfortunate that, like many other cognitive health conditions, dementia too is either shrugged off or frowned upon. Having met several seniors with dementia and their caregivers myself, I’m well aware of the struggles they face. I’d like to appreciate Sodexo for its efforts in dementia care, and I would like to offer my help in any way possible.”


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