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Why are we so afraid of dementia?

by Peter Kevern, The Conversation, 21 September 2017

Peter Kevern is an Associate Professor in Values in Care, Staffordshire University.

There can be no doubt that it is frequently a terrible condition both for the patient and those close to them, robbing everyone of peace, dignity, enjoyment and hope, and crushing the spirits of carers over months or years of struggle. But the hold which the prospect of dementia has on our collective imagination may be rooted in something more fundamental than our fear of disease – it challenges our deepest cultural assumptions. We live in a “hypercognitive” society, as the medical ethicist Stephen Post termed it, in which rational thought and coherent memory are core values. If the measure of our humanity is “I think, therefore I am”, what is the human status of someone whose ability to think is impaired?

To create a society which values people with dementia, we need to create a culture which values people in general – something that will benefit us all.

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