Smith, a former actor and now an outspoken advocate for Alzheimer’s patients and caregivers, describes the challenges his family faced when caring for his father in the 1980s. There were far fewer resources for patients and caregivers then and a great deal of stigma surrounding the disease, which led to his father hiding his condition for as long as he could without seeking help.
Today, both social and medical research support for Alzheimer’s and dementia have vastly improved. But Smith believes more needs to be done to promote open conversations about the disease to help ease people’s fears and lift the burden of stigma from both patients and caregivers.
Since his own diagnosis, Smith has adopted the mantra of “plan for the probable, work for the possible and hope for the future.” This mantra serves as a reminder to deal with practical matters such as wills and care instructions as early as possible (plan), make lifestyle adjustments that can improve conditions in the coming years such as exercise, improved diet and taking medications (work), and commit to remaining optimistic about the possibilities of future medical advances (hope).
Smith believes patients must continue to openly ask for compassion while also actively demanding respect in order to dispel the stigma and fears that have no role in helping patients or their caregivers. Smith’s three-part mantra helps him accept and work with his diagnosis, inspires him to adopt healthful lifestyle choices, and reminds him to stay hopeful about the future as he continues his commitment to fight for the human rights and dignity of all Alzheimer’s patients.