My Aunt was recently diagnosed with dementia.
Why is it OK for people to make jokes about Alzheimer’s disease or dementia?
Dementia is no laughing matter. So, why do people feel they have permission to joke about dementia/Alzheimer’s disease when it is discussed publicly? I recently attended a fundraising conference where a well-known presenter joked about Alzheimer’s. He was talking about people who leave money to charity in their estate and he wove a terrible comment about the disease. He was trying to be funny – Jimmy Fallon he was not. People make statements like “I bet she does not remember”, “Don’t worry, she can’t remember it anyway” and other such inappropriate and insensitive comments.
If my Aunt had been diagnosed with breast cancer, would these same people joke about her breasts? Or, if this had been an uncle or male family member who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, would these same people joke about the prostate? It seems people feel Alzheimer’s is an opportunity to attempt humour. Why is any diagnosis an opportunity for someone to try to make light of the situation? If the tables were turned, would these same people like inappropriate comments made about their family member or friend? I think not.
The fact is dementia impacts about 46 million people worldwide (that is larger than the size of the country of Spain). Someone is diagnosed every three seconds. According to the Alzheimer’s Disease International World Alzheimer Report 2015, Alzheimer’s will become a trillion dollar disease by 2018 and it will impact 131.5 million people by the year 2050. Everyone reading this blog will know someone in his or her lifetime that will be impacted by dementia. Will it be your parent? An Aunt? A sibling? A close friend? If it does not currently impact you personally, these statistics suggest Alzheimer’s disease will impact each one of us, as well as our global economy, and our society as a whole.
Want to take action today and do something about Alzheimer’s disease to fund research or help family members dealing with the issue? Contact the Alzheimer’s Association in your country to make a donation.
Dementia robs the person’s ability to remember things like what they ate for lunch, who visited them today, or where they placed a book they were just reading or the remote control they were just using.
Eventually my Aunt will not remember me, my sister, and even our mother (her sister). Sure, there will be funny things she will say and the pain of making light of the situation will go away. But, I suggest we all know our audience when talking about diseases or responding to conversation. Sometimes a simple “I am sorry to hear that” is far better than joking about a disease. Perhaps saying nothing at all is an even better approach.