Former Eastbourne police officer says she faces stigma being in the LGBTQ+ community and having dementia

A woman from Eastbourne says she’s ‘double stigmatised’ due to being diagnosed with dementia and being part of the LGBTQ+ community.

Christine Maddocks was diagnosed with dementia in 2016 at the age of 60 and is part of the LGBTQ+ community.

She said: “When you have a dementia diagnosis, that is a stigma. But being part of the LGBTQ+ community is another stigma, so you are almost double stigmatised.

“I live with my partner so am luckier than some, but many LGBTQ+ people with dementia do not have partners and have not always got great family support.”

Alzheimer’s Society staff and volunteers at London Pride, 2019.

Christine is part of Alzheimer’s Society’s campaign called Bring Dementia Out.

She said: “I spoke with a transgender man who needs to take hormone tablets each day but is extremely worried about getting to a point in the near future when he won’t remember his medication.

“I have gone for medical appointments and professionals mentioned my friend with me, when it was my partner. When I called my GP surgery recently on behalf of my partner, they asked for his name, when all they needed to do was ask what my partner’s name is.

“There are so many wrong assumptions made that cause difficulty and pain, but it only requires small changes to make a large and positive difference to those identifying as LGBTQ+.

Christine Maddocks

“A lot of people in the older generation will have grown up during a time when homosexuality was illegal. Due to dementia, they can regress to a time years earlier and start going back to a place in their mind when they were criminalised and outcast, causing strong symptoms of anxiety and fright.

“It is so important to see the person first and not their sexuality or dementia.”

John Hammond is a volunteer for Alzheimer’s Society. He said: “If you are the only LGBTQ+ person going along to a dementia service and others are talking about their partners of the opposite sex and children, it can be tricky to feel included.

“Our aim is to turn thoughts into tangible actions, setting up LGBTQ+ dementia peer support groups in Sussex, where people can talk without fear of censorship or worry.”

Dara de Burca, director of operations at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “People living with dementia can experience a broad range of challenges, from relationship struggles to problems with day-to-day tasks. But being LGBTQ+ with dementia can present additional obstacles. It is crucial that everyone affected by dementia gets support that meets their individual needs, regardless of their gender identity or sexuality.

“Whether it’s help accessing services, emotional support, knowing your rights or support with planning ahead, Alzheimer’s Society is here to ensure that nobody affected by dementia has to face it alone.”

Alzheimer’s Society is calling for:

Support services to be LGBTQ+ inclusive and to recognise how important gender identity and sexuality is to LGBTQ+ people with dementia.

More dedicated LGBTQ+ services to be available for those who wish to use them.

Everyone affected by dementia, regardless of gender or sexuality, to receive the information, advice and support that feels safe and relevant to them.

Improved training for healthcare professionals, including in residential homes, on the individual needs and unique challenges that LGBTQ+ people with dementia may face.

To speak to an Alzheimer’s Society dementia adviser call 0333 150 3456.