Recently, an ill-informed and disrespectful journalist from the Australian Financial Review wrote an inflammatory and offensive article about people with dementia. It is also of some concern that the online site The Conversation seems complicit in such attitudes and behaviour. I have highlighted a letter to them from the President of Alzheimer’s Australia, and a couple of excellent blogs written by two colleagues, also friends of people with dementia. Both were key-note speakers at the recent ADI2015 conference in Perth.
Firstly, the offensive letter can be downloaded here AFR. As Co-chair of Dementia Alliance International, I sent the editor a letter, with no response. I then sent in a Letter to the Editor, for publication, with no response. A number of others have also sent letters, and has zero response. This is part of what I wrote, hoping to be published as a Letter to the Editor:
Your article is factually incorrect and morally reprehensible. It is also stigmatising, ageist, defamatory, discriminatory and insulting. To refer to any human being as feral takes us back to the dark ages in terms of respect for others. A public retraction and front page public apology is the bare minimum of your appropriate – and required – next steps.
Alzheimer’s Australia President, wrote this letter, which was published. Sadly, the title was as offensive, referring to people with dementia as sufferers…
Dr Allan Power, a leading psychiatrist and author in the USA, also a strong advocate for NOT prescribing antipsychotics to ‘manage behaviour’, wrote this excellent blog on the topic, Sins of Commission, Sins of Omission. Do follow the link to read the full article, but I felt this was important to add these following two quotes from his article:
Articles like this may represent extreme examples of ignorance and prejudice, but whenever we see them, we should ask ourselves two questions: (1) what are the more subtle forms of stigma and discrimination that permeate our society, and (2) what part do we play in creating such attitudes?
and his final paragraph was this;
Make no mistake about it—we have created the Christopher Jays of the world, and we continue to do so every day. As Michael Ignatieff once said, “There are few presumptions in human relations more dangerous than the idea that one knows what another human being needs better than they do themselves.”
Dr Siobhan O’Dwyer a young researcher from Queensland also wrote this excellent article on her blog Just people. Her final paragraph I thought was perfect;
People with dementia are not feral. They are not a menace to society. They are not mad, bad, or dangerous to know. They are just people. People who have worked jobs, raised children, loved, and been loved. People who are trying to keep their dignity and humanity as their brain (and the world) rips it away. People who need our support and our understanding. People.