Dementia content material will get billions of views on TikTok. Whose story does it inform?


A dementia analysis can immediately change how the world sees somebody. The stigma has an extended attain, too: household and associates of these with dementia may also discover that the world has retreated from them.

The web, at its finest, will help make the truth of dwelling with dementia extra seen. And for some, the web is the one place they will join with others going via the identical factor.

However the web isn’t all the time at its finest. The #Dementia hashtag on TikTok has 2 billion views. Right here creators produce streams of content material about their experiences caring for somebody with late-stage dementia. Most of the hottest movies are inspirational or academic. However amongst them, it’s simple to seek out viral movies wherein care companions—a time period many advocates choose to the extra generally used “caregivers”—mock dementia sufferers and escalate arguments with them on digicam.

Creators haven’t settled on the ethics of creating public content material about somebody who might now not have the ability to consent to being filmed. In the meantime, people who find themselves themselves dwelling with dementia are elevating their very own questions on consent, and emphasizing the harms brought on by viral content material that perpetuates stereotypes or misrepresents the complete nature of the situation.

“That’s a dialog that individuals with dementia have been having now for some time,” says Kate Swaffer, a cofounder of Dementia Alliance Worldwide, an advocacy group whose members all reside with the situation. Swaffer was identified with younger-onset semantic dementia in 2008, when she was 49.

In some methods, these conversations echo ongoing discussions about “sharenting,” household vloggers, and parenting influencers. Children who had been as soon as involuntary stars of their mother and father’ social media feeds develop up and have opinions about how they had been portrayed. However adults with dementia usually are not youngsters, and whereas youngsters develop the power to consent as they get older, theirs will diminish completely over time.

Legally, a care accomplice or member of the family with energy of lawyer can consent on behalf of an individual who’s unable to take action. However advocates say this normal shouldn’t be almost sufficient to guard the rights and dignity of these dwelling with later-stage dementia.

Swaffer’s personal normal is that this: Nobody ought to share content material about somebody in these levels of dementia—whether or not on Fb, in a pictures exhibition, or on TikTok—if that particular person has not explicitly consented to it earlier than shedding the cognitive capability to take action.

She’s instructed her household, she says, that if “they ever publish stuff about me once I can’t give consent, I’ll come again and hang-out them.”

Digital care

Most of the hottest TikTok movies about dementia characteristic remoted moments of inspiration. In a single, a father who is usually nonverbal whispers “I like you” to his daughter: 32 million views. In one other, a daughter laughs as her dad, who she says “doesn’t keep in mind how we’re associated,” recollects all of the phrases to comic Bo Burnham’s music “White Lady’s Instagram.”


The primary time Jacquelyn Revere walked right into a help group for care companions of members of the family with dementia, she knew she hadn’t discovered her folks. Revere, then a 20-something who’d simply uprooted her life in New York Metropolis to come back residence to California to look after her mom and grandmother, was many years youthful than anybody else within the room.

“Folks had been speaking about, you understand, pulling fairness out of their homes and their 401k,” she says. “I ended up feeling worse. I didn’t have any of that. I had no assets.”

Finally, Revere started posting as @momofmymom, a deal with that, she felt, summed up the altering dynamic between her and her mom, Lynn. Again then, her mom may maintain a dialog and consent to be filmed. It felt extra as if they had been working the channel collectively. She now has greater than half one million followers on TikTok, together with many fellow millennials who’re additionally care companions.


Revere tries to make the content material she needs had been out there to her when she was simply beginning out. In a single video, she and her mom spend a day collectively, going to a covid-safe outside train class and hanging out with associates within the park. In one other, Revere sits within the automotive alone, speaking emotionally about how she’s dealing with her mother’s deteriorating capabilities. She tries to seize her mom on digicam “when she’s contemporary out of the bathe and her hair is completed and he or she appears like ‘Ooh, I’m that lady,” Revere says. She’ll deal with many of the more durable stuff whereas her mom is off display.

As her mom’s dementia progresses, and Revere learns extra about what sort of story she needs to inform, her TikToks have turn out to be extra academic. Right here’s how she solves her mom’s tendency to gather and stash paper towels and napkins. Right here’s why it’s vital to construct a help system for each you and the particular person you’re caring for. Right here’s why she has to consider carefully about how she responds within the second to her mother’s altering cognitive skills.

Movies like Revere’s will help care companions perceive how one can deal with the numerous challenges of serving to a beloved one with dementia, or just make them really feel much less alone, says Teepa Snow, an educator and occupational therapist who teaches care companions and care professionals how one can work with these dwelling with dementia. However for each creator like Revere, there are a lot who use social media to mock somebody with dementia, or vent in regards to the particular person they’re caring for.

Viral hurt

Typically members of the family and even care professionals submit publicly to their private social media accounts out of frustration, documenting a nasty second in a video and sharing it on Fb—perhaps intending their household or associates to see what they’re coping with.

Care companions submit movies like this after they “really feel misjudged for his or her remedy of an individual dwelling with dementia or [feel] that the particular person dwelling with dementia is harmful or aggressive,” Snow says. However a video from one particular person’s perspective doesn’t inform the complete story. “These are two phrases we hear so typically: ‘Properly, she received actually aggressive!’” Snow says. “And also you watch the movies and also you’re like, ‘Mm, you provoked her! She gave you 5 alternatives to again your self off.’”

A few of the earliest viral movies that Snow recollects seeing about these dwelling with dementia leaned into these stereotypes, and had been created to argue that the particular person being filmed shouldn’t reside independently. These dangerous movies have migrated over time from the pre-social web to Fb, YouTube, and now TikTok. A TikTok account related to a Canadian group of long-term-care employees went non-public final summer time after posting movies that featured employees mocking dementia sufferers.

Swaffer can be troubled by the best way viral movies mirror the infantilizing of individuals with dementia that she’s seen in actual life. She recollects attending in-person help teams wherein she was “shuffled off to an exercise room” and handled as if she had few cognitive capabilities, although she accomplished three levels and began a PhD after her analysis. On-line, she sees this stereotype bolstered in vastly widespread movies exhibiting dementia sufferers enjoying with youngsters’s toys and dolls.

Stereotypes perpetuated via viral content material have a palpable unfavourable impression on these dwelling with dementia. Christine Thelker, a Canadian activist and writer, was identified with vascular dementia eight years in the past. Nearly instantly, folks near her started questioning her capability to work, drive a automotive, and reside on her personal.

Thelker nonetheless lives by herself. A volunteer comes by as soon as per week to assist her with issues which are changing into tougher over time. However, she says, “I nonetheless can drive. I can cook dinner for myself. I didn’t lose all my skills in a single day.”

Swaffer has endured hostility on-line for trying to problem dangerous narratives about dementia.

“There’s been an extended dialogue about language, respectful language on our phrases. Folks with out dementia recurrently say that we’re struggling or, you understand, victims of dementia,” she says. “I’ve been bullied off of social media twice now by carers’ teams for daring to say, ‘Please don’t name us victims.’”

Thelker has had comparable experiences. “They don’t like us difficult that establishment,” she says. She’s encountered this typically when talking out about care practices that aren’t essentially acceptable for these within the earlier levels of dementia. “That establishment was based mostly on folks being identified after they’re already hitting the late stage. Not after they’re within the early levels and will nonetheless operate nicely for 20 years,” she factors out.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Share post:


More like this