The hit NBC series This Is Us has put dementia in the spotlight, doing important work to raise awareness about dementia symptoms, the diagnosis process and its impact on entire families. One of the show’s main characters, Rebecca, played by actress and music artist Mandy Moore, began showing symptoms of dementia in the most recent season and alluded to a possible dementia diagnosis.

Several episodes hinted at changes in her behavior, beginning with forgetfulness and brief moments of confusion. The changes have been subtle, as they often are in real life. The show’s producers have also worked in hints during the flashback scenes that are so prevalent in the series. Viewers have watched Rebecca forget important details and events during the early years of her first marriage, and experience inexplicable medical issues that imply to viewers that something may not be right with her brain.

With the encouragement of her children after displaying more signs like irritability and changes in personality during this season, Rebecca turned to professionals for answers.

While the truth about her symptoms remains yet to be confirmed, fans of the show have offered up commentary on possible diagnoses on social media and in online fan forums, with many pointing to dementia or Alzheimer’s diseases because of their own experiences in their families. Although other possibilities, like a brain tumor, have been discussed as a possible explanation, this storyline has played an important role in bringing dementia to the forefront of the conversation and connecting caregivers with shared experiences.

As dementia and Alzheimer’s disease becomes a central part of our culture, with more and more lives being impacted by new diagnoses every day, it is essential that we end the stigma surrounding dementia. Connecting and sharing with other caregivers is just one effective way to support one another throughout the experience with memory impairment.

I also encourage the writers and producers of the show to consider adding in Dementia Aware caregiving techniques to the show’s script as Rebecca goes through her treatment and ages in the storyline. Being Dementia Aware is a way for caregivers and family members to understand what is behind dementia symptoms, and that we can’t stop, fix or change dementia, but we can manage it through several strategies, including:

• Thinking for them;
• Avoiding asking questions;
• Giving them only information that they can handle;
• Using positive action statements; and
• Joining them in their feelings.

These are all strategies that Rebecca’s family can adopt in the show. This will help enlighten This Is Us viewers about how we can have more positive interactions with those who have dementia symptoms, and thus boost Dementia Awareness around the world.

For more information on becoming Dementia Aware, click here.

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