We need a new name for dementia.

Started by

As caregiver to my two parents, both with dementia, it has become increasingly obvious to me that the term "dementia" needs to be refreshed, as so many other medical labels have been in the recent past (e.g., we now say "a person with diabetes" vs. "a diabetic person", and certain labels such as "retarded" are now considered pejorative. In French, the word dementia means "crazy" and is considered a harsh insult. The Alzheimer's Society here wants people to simply use the word Alzheimer's Disease for all dementias, but that is completely inaccurate and dangerously misleading, particularly in terms of treatment and caregiving. My mother, who is still aware of her dementia, hates the word. Given that half of all baby-boomers are projected to have some form of dementia, it behooves us to come up with a new term for it. I'm suggesting Diminishing Mental Capacity (DMC) or Brain Connectivity Disorder (BCD). My mother likes Brain-Fade! Any suggestions or thoughts on this topic? Much appreciated. I know it takes more than a chat-room to change these sticky labels, but we have to start somewhere.

20 Comments

I agree. There is an interesting chart of old words that were cause for putting someone in a sanitarium...hysteria being one (latin root: womb -- a female disease). Another being ill treatment by husband...or even laziness. All of these words and reasoning have been redone in recent times.

Here is a link to the list - hope they wont remove. If they do, please google "old reasons for institutionalization". We would ALL be locked up!!



To me, dementia implies demented...which is more like insane than a brain disease. I do like Brain Connectivity Disorder (BCD). The DSM-5 which is the go to book for psychology has renamed dementia as Major Neurocognitive Disorder which I also think is good. This is the same book that renamed manic depression to bipolar disorder. I hope the new DSM-5 name catches on.

Angel
GREAT idea. I like it. How do we get the ball started, since it will take a while for it to catch on.
Hmm ... words matter to me. I'm an English major. :)

But I'm also a diabetic. Person who has diabetes is just too many words. And to need to pussy-foot around implies (to me) that there is something shameful about being diabetic. It is just an adjective, like short or blue-eyed or funny. No adjective completely describes a person. I think the push to say "person with diabetes" is silly and wasted energy.

I also don't find anything pejorative about the term "dementia." It sure beats "senile."
Jeanne I just laughed out loud. I have a short friend who prefers to be called vertically challenged hahaha.

Angel
A dear friend used to be manic depressive and now she is bipolar. (Or, to be perfectly correct, she is a person with bipolar disorder.) As far as I can see, the change hasn't been an improvement. And, of course, we still talk about her manic episodes.

The big, big issue -- the elephant in the room -- is the stigma attached to all kinds of mental illnesses and disorders. And if rebranding the conditions helps overcome some of the stigma then I'm all in favor of it. As far as I can see, though, the name is seldom the problem.
I'm diabetic too, but use diabetic to describe myself all the time. No shame for me. Still, I do feel odd about the term dementia. When I use it to refer to friends and loved ones, it just feels uncomfortable.
I prefer to use "memory issues" which most people not familiar with the terms dementia or Alzheimer's tend to understand, but will relay their own memory issues with a smile... such as walking into a room and forgetting why you went there.
Ha, I'm still trying to get across to people that dementia and Alzheimer's are not synonyms.
Shall we call them cognitively challenged?
I was actually thinking dementia is a kind word that encompasses all the symptoms that go with the various types of dementia. People understand what it is. Although I don't mind dementia, I don't like demented. Calling a person demented sounds bad to me, but saying they have dementia seems okay. To me it is just a symptom that says they are cognitively impaired in many ways.

Doctors do diagnose mild, moderate, and severe cognitive impairment. That is good, too.
Jessebelle, My fil actually said he was Damebranaged!

Keep the conversation going (or start a new one)

Please enter your Comment

Ask a Question

Reach thousands of elder care experts and family caregivers
Get answers in 10 minutes or less
Receive personalized caregiving advice and support