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Living with Alzheimer'sManaging Memory Loss, Identity, and Illness$
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Renée L. Beard

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781479800117

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479800117.001.0001

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Hearing “the A Word”

Hearing “the A Word”

The Road to Becoming an Alzheimer’s Patient

(p.106) 5 Hearing “the A Word”
Living with Alzheimer's

Renée L. Beard

NYU Press

Accounts of diagnosis in this chapter suggest that while potentially removing personal blame and/or responsibility, designating a brain demented also threatens the individualism and autonomy of those diagnosed. Accepting what American sociologist Everett Hughes called the “master status” of Alzheimer patient is a clear threat to one’s social status, thus ultimately designating them “outsiders,” according to Howard Becker. Building on seminal social theorist Erving Goffman’s work on impression management and stigma avoidance, a proactive side of people with Alzheimer’s disease (PWAD) that is all too often assumed to be lacking is depicted. Indeed, individuals work to present themselves favorably by employing deliberate strategies to manage their identities during diagnostic disclosure. Given the diagnostic advantages and disadvantages revealed, an AD diagnosis serves both a social function and a personal one, neither of which is without detriment.

Keywords:   people with Alzheimer’s disease (PWAD), diagnostic disclosure, Erving Goffman, Everett Hughes, Howard Becker, impression management, stigma avoidance, identity management strategies

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