Do we create a stigma or magnify a problem simply so we can look like the heroes, the problem solvers, the “magic makers?” I think we do. How often do we come across an interview or article written to highlight a care community’s, “unique and innovative model” or hype up their marketing and public perception? When comments are made (and we are all guilty of this at some point in our life) stating that “In other care communities those suffering from dementia and other physical and mental ailments experiences x, y, and z. Here at (community name), we believe in a, b, and c.” They come off with a degrading statement followed by a polished marketing statement. For me, these moments, regardless of the beautiful work the community is doing or how innovative and powerful their programs may be, shuts me down, and I immediately move on to the next article, video, or other tasks. Why is this so problematic? We are enhancing and stating a stigma or using language that we know is not correct to “shock” or to put down the “competition” to make ourselves look better. This is done all the time and is not unique to care organizations and communities.
Our social workers, creative arts therapists, psychologists, medical professionals, and others are all trained to reinforce stigma instead of using their knowledge and area of expertise to help alleviate it. Work with aging and dementia is seen as unworthy, less than, where the professional is unable to do, “deep work.” Where did this lie come from? Why are our professors pouring water on this idea instead of weeding it out?
We want to shock for our benefit. Stigmatize so that we can look like the hero. Ignore so that we feel guiltless as we work with the trendy population.
What harm this does! What trials it unloads onto those who seek healing! What cowards!
So what can we do? Those who are not in these positions to change what is going on? Beyond self-education and taking an evangelistic approach to our interactions, what can we do?
We can breathe. We can remember that we are all flawed human beings. We can pray. We can remember that we have a long way to go and this is part of the journey. Then we can, to the best of our unique abilities, head out and change when we can and move forward when we can’t.
What else would you say about this topic? What would you suggest?