Dementia Patient or Person with Dementia? You Decide!

At the risk of sounding picayune, family members and professional care givers who continue to categorize persons with Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias, as “patients” need to rethink their position.

For the same reason we don’t use the term “patient” when referring to a person with autism, we shouldn’t use it in referring to persons with dementia. The word patient connotes that the person is under the care of a physician or in a medical facility for healing and/or treatment.

Persons with dementia do not receive healing and do not receive treatment in the same way as someone dealing with cancer or diabetes. A person with dementia is having memory retrieval difficulties or changes. Over-simplified as this may sound, the occurrence may be slight or severe. While there are medications available that can alter the symptoms of dementia, there is no cure. Someday, we hope that this condition can be reversed and persons with dementia can resume a more traditional quality of life.

If a person loses a limb in a car accident, they are not referred to as a patient. We see him or her as someone that needs to alter function and/or mobility. Someone with a speech impediment is never referred to as a patient. He or she is simply a person with an impediment that affects speech. This person will have a greater challenge in communicating their thoughts verbally. The same would be true of someone that’s diagnosed as being blind. He or she is not considered a patient, but someone who has to alter their lifestyle because of visual limitation or total loss.

The sooner we recognize someone as a person rather than a patient, the sooner the person can move on with his/her life. In fact that is what has happened, the person has had a change in living capability. Life is filled with very ordinary people, who have to alter function or mobility to some degree as time progresses. Unfortunately, for many people, as they grow older, having dementia will be a stage of life.

All this may sound like semantics to some. However, it’s vital for the person with dementia to be viewed as a whole person with challenges rather than a patient under treatment, expecting a cure at some time in the future. Even with dementia, there is still a lot of life to enjoy and much that can be accomplished.