Relationships and Personhood

Of all the losses associated with dementia, I believe the greatest loss is that of relationships, fueled in part by stigmatization. Yet a sense of relationship is vital to the integrity of the self.

What fuels the toxicity of this stigma, of this pulling away from those who are living with dementia? I believe it is our failure to recognize and honor the inherent personhood of every human being, regardless of conditions or circumstances. The loss of personhood does not follow from the loss of cognitive abilities. I strongly understand personhood as being imparted, and therefore inviolate, unfading, even unending. And certainly not lessened by any disease.

If I do not hold such a view of personhood, then I am apt to regard those who experience cognitive loss as “less than,” negatively biasing my treatment of them, and my expectations of being able to form or maintain relationships with them. This amounts to a judgement…a judgement in favor of dementia, and against the human spirit.

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