, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 283-299
Date: 30 Jul 2008

Reexamining the Relationships Among Dementia, Stigma, and Aging in Immigrant Chinese and Vietnamese Family Caregivers

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Abstract

Prior literature emphasizes that Asian Americans with dementia may be particularly vulnerable to the stigma of chronic and severe mental illness. However, there is a dearth of empirical research to support this claim. This study examines the relationship of stigma and dementia in 32 qualitative interviews with Chinese and Vietnamese family caregivers. Stigma was a common theme in the interviews (91%). Further analysis revealed two sources: the stigma of chronic and severe mental illness and a stigma reflecting negative stereotypes of aging or the aged. Chinese and Vietnamese cultural views of normal aging are not unitary but accommodate different trajectories of aging, some more and some less desired. When applied to persons with dementia, a “normalized” but negative trajectory of aging carried with it significant stigma that was distinct from but in addition to the stigma of chronic and severe mental illness. Older Chinese and Vietnamese with dementia are thus at risk of experiencing multiple stigmas that include but go beyond the stigma associated with chronic and severe mental illness.