Managing stigma

Managing stigma

While there are benefits to speaking with trusted or even all of your colleagues about how dementia impacts you, there can also be downsides. The stigma of dementia is real, and one of the biggest barriers to people living with dementia or acting as a care partner being treated with dignity and respect.

For people living with dementia, stigma can include:

  • Hurtful comments, jokes, and stereotypes.
  • Assumptions about what you can or cannot accomplish.
  • Withholding projects or opportunities.
  • Excluding you from work or social activities.
  • Withdrawing from the relationship with you.

For care partners to people living with dementia, stigma can include:

  • Assumptions about your availability and, as a result, withholding projects or opportunities to advance.
  • Hurtful comments about your attendance and availability in and outside of work hours.
  • Excluding you from work or social activities.
  • Withdrawing from the relationship with you.

In some cases, stigma can be overt and deliberate. In other cases, stigma results from a lack of understanding and can be addressed through information sharing and respectful dialogue. In all cases, you are entitled to a respectful and inclusive workplace free of discrimination under Alberta’s Human Rights Act



If you feel safe and comfortable speaking to co-workers who seem to be withdrawing from their relationships with you, are showing negative attitudes toward dementia, or lack respect in how they interact with you, it can be helpful to talk to them directly. If you are not comfortable speaking to them, then consider whether your employer may be able to help support a more respectful and dementia-inclusive work culture and environment. Your employer may be able to speak to your co-workers or may have internal policies and procedures to help resolve your concerns.

If you find that you and/or your employer are unable to resolve your concerns and you believe you are the victim of one or more discriminatory acts, you have the option to file a human rights complaint through the Alberta Human Rights Commission within 12 months of the discriminatory act. Everyone has a right to a respectful and inclusive workplace free of harassment and discrimination, and taking steps to ensure respectful and inclusive work cultures can facilitate better relationships and certainly better experiences for people affected by dementia.

Managing the impacts of stigma

Don’t dismiss or overlook the impacts of stigma. Negative attitudes and acts of discrimination toward dementia can have serious consequences. It can make people impacted by dementia:

  • Reluctant to consult a doctor to seek diagnosis and treatment.
  • Reluctant to inform their employer that they are experiencing challenges in the workplace.
  • Reluctant to talk about and strive to overcome their challenges.
  • Likely to experience delayed treatment, which can decrease both quality of life and life expectancy.
  • Likely to lack positive and supportive relationships that help to increase quality of life.
  • Likely to suffer from poor mental health and quality of life. Likely to feel increased shame and self-doubt.

If you are struggling with your own perceptions of dementia, talk to your doctor, another qualified health professional, or someone you trust. If you are facing stigma in your workplace, talk to the people involved, if safe and appropriate to do so, your employer, or the Alberta Human Rights Commission. The Alberta Human Rights Commission accepts confidential calls to discuss concerns as well as human rights complaints.