November is National Alzheimer’s Awareness month and there are many campaigns encouraging us to take action to End Alz., and to Go Purple with a Purpose. We are asked to show our support by wearing purple, hanging purple ribbons in windows, and to update your Facebook profile with a purple icon.

Currently, there are more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease and it is projected that number could reach 16 million by 2050. This disease does not just affect those diagnosed, but there is an estimated 15 million family members and friends that provide day-to-day care with an estimated value that is over 230 billion dollars. To Go Purple with a Purpose is an important starting point in bringing these individuals, families, and this misunderstood disease, to the forefront.

To motivate real change in the understanding of Alzheimer’s and dementia requires us to start having purposeful conversations about this growing disease. Effective conversations within families, communities, and at the state and national level will need to start with changing the way we see the disease. People with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia can live meaningful and purposeful lives. They are not “suffering” and they are not “less” as a person. They are grown adults that have lived full, meaningful lives with many experiences and much wisdom to share.

The stigma around Alzheimer’s and dementia devalues and underestimates these individuals. As a result, there is a negative attitude and a fear that has permeated our society. This fear, negativity and ignorance has affected the way we advocate, treat and support individuals and families living with this disease.

Be aware of the words and phrases that are used to describe Alzheimer’s disease and those diagnosed. If it devalues them or their situation, don’t use it. Let’s stop spreading fear and negativity and change the conversation to promote compassion and humanity. We can start by talking with people living with dementia instead of talking about them. Be inclusive! They are just seeing the world differently and we need to adjust to our view to help them stay connected and engaged in life. Alzheimer’s disease may take away their memory, but it does not take away their humanness and basic need to love and be loved.

Please show your support for those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia all year long by wearing purple and donating money and time to important research efforts and community programs for these families. Just as important, please help change the conversation and promote inclusion and positivity.